Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Well, friends, I’m back. For those of you who I have shamelessly not called or emailed recently, I'm sorry! I had to hibernate a bit, but I'm back. I’ll try to sum up the past month or two. I came home in December for Christmas and to spend time with my grandmother, who has had advancing cancer for the last few years. Her health began to get worse shortly before the holidays, and she was staying in the bed by the time I got home. To put it simply, I decided to stay indefinitely when I realized how bad things were. My mom and aunt had been staying with my Mimi full time, and my sister was starting to spend most of her time at her house too, and I didn’t exactly feel like jetting off to play in Guatemala with all of my family here dealing with such serious issues, so I stayed to help. We cared for Mimi in her house until she passed away on January 15th. Then there was the funeral, endless rounds of family and friends and loved ones, and I finally ended up back here at my parents place to re-center.

During all of that, I was having a lot of trouble adjusting to life back home. I experienced a lot of different things while I was traveling and went through some major personal changes. I spent a lot of time by myself, some of it pleasant and some of it more difficult, while I was on the road. Coming home to such a chaotic and emotional scene was hard – I felt really overwhelmed by all of the noise and activity, and at the same time, really isolated. I also had to deal with my grief – I knew that my Mimi was going to die and that it was good and right for that to happen – she was in a lot of pain and was ready to go – but knowing that was different from watching her struggle and being with her while she died.

So I have been trying to relax and get my mind right again, and thinking a lot about what I want to do next. The original plan was to go to Columbia and start working my way around South America. But, a few nagging things were making me question that course of action, so I decided to stay still and think for a bit before I rushed off. I came to a few conclusions.

1. I was having a lot of trouble dealing with the past 9 months’ changes. I hadn’t really let myself think about it too much, honestly, but I seem to have been/be having a bit of a personal crisis adjusting to all of these changes. Namely, I left my job. Maybe my career. I left my house. I left my friends. I left a serious relationship. And I did it all casually, happily – no big deal! It didn’t occur to me that it might be hard, that it might cause me to question a lot of big things, like my identity, and what I place value on, and what I value about myself. Silly me! That was a tough one, and I’m sure it’s not over, but I think I’m on the downhill side. For now. It seems like these are probably life-long questions, but anyway…

2. I realized (and admitted to myself) I am not going to find utopia bouncing around in the world. I didn’t really think I would, but I have to admit that I had a glimmer of hope. And I found some really good things, some interesting things, and some instructional things. But not utopia. All of the same problems, dramas, and issues are being enacted in every place that I visited just like they are here in Georgia and in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Different details, although some people are handling them better than others. Same issues. Guess I had to really experience that for myself.

3. I really want to do something real. I have always felt that so much of life (mine, my friends’, the people’s around me) is made up. Maybe that’s not the best way to describe it, but I can’t come up with a better term. Maybe like a lot of our everyday lives are contrived. We’re all driving around, running back and forth, filling up our schedules with scheduled work and play and TV and sleep and wishing we had more time that we would surely fill up with more things that we don’t really find fulfilling. In our social time we talk about superficial things. Lives of people we’ve never met, global and national issues that are important, but lots of times things that we don’t directly experience or feel like we can influence. I’ve surely experienced this – don’t know about you guys. This is not meant to be a political statement, just a statement I’ve felt really disconnected. And that’s something that I haven’t felt as much recently, especially when I’ve been here (or in other countries) working with a team of people on something real that we were all going to enjoy the benefits of, like working in a garden. That’s real, and it’s fun. It’s work, and it’s play. I’m enjoying where that train of thought is taking me. I'm currently looking into different types of sustainable working communities, like ecovillages. I think I may focus on visiting and working in these kinds of places when I leave again.

4. I still want to travel, but maybe not alone. And probably with more of a plan. Haphazard can be fun, but it gets old when you realize that you are just bouncing along a tourist trail, made for tourists like you. Lots of people speak English, and you’re more likely to have a conversation with a Californian than a native person in the country you’re in. And while I really did enjoy being by myself sometimes and I really did appreciate the time for self-reflection, I was less adventurous in wandering off that tourist trail than I would have been if I had a partner. So, I’m going to plan a little more this time. I still have my little travel nest egg, and I plan to use it, but I’m not in any hurry. I think I’d value a little more planning and maybe some companionship over the first strategy. There are some amazing places I want to see in South America, but I’m not in a big hurry anymore.

Being in a hurry is the one thing that’s been the hardest for me to let go of. Even though I didn’t have a schedule, I was constantly asking myself what I was going to do next. This even applies long term – I’ve been thinking (partly sub-consciously) that I can go ahead and finish up this ‘year of travel’ and try to do it really efficiently so I can see everything I want to and oh-by-the-way while I’m traveling I better be figuring out what I’m going to do NEXT because everyone keeps asking and…on and on and on. And not to get too new-agey, but I’m starting to actually understand that there is no next. It’s all right now. So, I’m going to stay here for now, do some planning for the next steps in my trip, and work on some projects that I think are fun and rewarding. And travel again when I decide where I want to go most and what I want to do there. There’s no reason that I can’t do fun and rewarding projects while I’m traveling, and I did experience some of that, but in my experience, it wasn’t intrinsically ‘better’ than doing those things here. It also takes a little more planning up front to find that kind of arrangement while you're traveling, and here I have the extra benefit of having network of people that I know and love, and a place to stay – always a plus :)

I’ve had a lot of conversations with different people over the past few months (and years, really) about the various problems in the world and our frustrations, mainly centered around not knowing what to do to make things better and feeling powerless to do anything at all. I’ve gained a lot of new perspective and read a ton of interesting books on those feelings and issues over the last 9 months or so, so if you’re interested, feel free to shoot me an email – I’ve got everything from economy to the environment to clinical psychology on my bookshelf right now. I can’t say that I have any world-saving advice or ‘the solution,’ but I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out of finding ways to connect with something concrete in the world, and I think one of the easiest ways to do that is through food. So if I have any simple advice (and if anyone is even interested in that advice) it’s this – in some ways, your whole life is about nourishing your body and that of your family. That’s what you go to work for (along with paying for your house, water, and various toys, etc). If you can find a way to connect with where your food comes from, you can get a lot of satisfaction out of that connection and ‘do something’ without having to make any huge life change or feeling like you need to save the world. So find out if there is a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) farm near you. Plant a garden. Invite your neighbors (and friends!) over for a potluck. That’s all. Love you all.



Carrie said...

This has been a very interesting read. I have been abnormally introspective recently as well. I have many theories as to why, but I think it's because we're about to enter the last year of our 20s Aura!

Jami said...

I couldn't agree with you more Carrie! Aura, I enjoyed reading your thoughts. Would love to see you while you're still here in Georgia...let me know if you want to come down and hang out with me sometime!

Carrie said...

I totally agree with you!!! I've been coming upon the same thoughts recently as well since we've had the farm and I've recently gone vegetarian. I've been reading a lot of books on food and health. Somedays I really wish I could just do something more organic with my time than a CS career would allow for, but alas the CS career is needed to make the house/farm payment :-( The ironies of society... Let me know if you are ever back in the ABQ for a day or two and we should talk :-)

Hannah said...

I feel you, chica.
I´m tired of traveling alone, too. Miss you, and I can´t wait to come back home and plant a garden with you!