Saturday, September 21, 2013

Verbalization of Gratitude

“You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn't depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”
-Trenton Lee Stewart-

Family. Everyone is born into one, that is one thing that we call can agree upon. What we can’t agree upon or really measure is the amount of love in each family. It’s a strange phenomenon; it encompasses our everyday existence, but is so apparent, it’s almost transparent. Everyone’s heard the saying, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family,” but I think you do choose your family. You chose you’re family when you make that decision to stay close to them despite the distance, or resolve past conflicts in order to keep that bond. Life is all about choices, and learning from those choices.  What I love most about this topic above any other is the genuine factor is has on people. Maybe it’s just me, but opening up about “intangibles” force me to deeply think about what it really means to be human or just be. I focus on each sentence, each word to ensure the meaning reaches its intended purpose. I guess the reason behind it is a simple one: I don’t take the time I should to express how I feel about the people that truly mean the world to me.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and it’s hard to just breathe let alone appreciate things/people. That sounds so backwards to me; we’ve create our own daily messes. We’ve become such complex creatures and in doing so, have degraded our primal purposes to love, and be loved.  Now that I am away, (like really really away) not just Ohio or Indiana, I find it even more apparent how friends and family help mold us. Its funny how distance tends to heighten your awareness; it helps you discover what it means to be a good person, friend, sister, and daughter. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m home I miss and appreciate people, but distance throws a metaphorical wrench into things; it makes you stop dead in your tracks, take a deep breath and smile. If I had to think of two words to describe it I guess it would be pure thankfulness. It’s a strange thought, but the more special or rare something is, the more people take it for granted. You hear it over and over again: family and friends don’t last forever, make sure you make the time count! It’s not until you stop hearing the words and actually feel what is being said, that you’ll really understand its meaning.  


“You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world's happiness now. How? By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”

Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)
Motivational Author

I’ve always heard people say, “I have to call my mom today or..blah blah,” or “ugh, it’s that time to get together with so and so this week…” where it’s more of an obligation or burden. I think through my nomadic life so far, I’ve come to realize those who mean the most to me (hopefully vice versa) always find a way to stay in touch. So here are just a few shout outs:

To my Girlfriends from college- We might all go our different ways, but always ALWAYS make it back to each other and I love and cherish that.

To Kaitlin- I’ve known you since middle school, and when I say absolutely nothing has changed, I mean it. I’m so lucky to have such a longtime friend that will do anything for me and can talk about anything and EVERYTHING with me. Miss you more than words can show.

To Karoline- I’ve known you forever as well, but it still feels like yesterday when we first met. I can’t really say I miss talking to you or seeing you because we see each other almost every day on Skype! I’m so thankful that you take the time out of your looney tuney days to catch up and just say hi. You are my rock. 

To my Family- It takes a lot to put up with me, I’ll be the first to admit it. From relationship drama, to daily career change ideas, I always want to mix things up. You’re all there to watch me grow through the good AND the bad times. I love the constant love and encouragement you’ve given me from the very beginning; without it I don’t know if I would have taken half the risks that I have. I saw this quote a little while ago and think it completely applies, “Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.” I think that everyone has a story to tell, and they need a strong support system to make that story come to life. I will never really be able to repay you all for the strength you’ve given me, I just hope you know how appreciative I am to be a part of such a family.

To everyone else (who really wants to read a blog this long anyway?)- People impact people no matter how long they’ve known them. Whether I’ve known you a minute or years, everyone has in one way or another made me who I am today. Knowing and realizing that is humbling.

SO to sum things up: I love people. Haha no, but really. I just wanted to write one little (okay not so little) blog about how the people in my life really are amazing. I think it’s important to verbally (or in this case blogally?) say it more often even though it’s a struggle to do. It’s hard to be vulnerable, let alone manifest the “right” words to express how you feel AND give it justice. Sometimes you just have to think that the hard things in life are the ones that will shape you into a better you. This probably was not the most eloquent of blogs (in fact I’m positive it wasn’t), but it put somewhat of a dent in my verbalization of gratitude toward the people whom I love the most.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Powerful Proximity

Oh! Hello Again. It appears I suck at blogging; go figure.

I wish I could say things have been really crazy and that I’ve had no time to keep up, but that would be a complete and utter lie. Honestly, I forgot about it. Have you ever had one of those “This-is-the-best-idea-ever” kind of idea which just turned out to be more of a hassle than anything? YEP, I could file this in latter more than anything. Once I do get going, ideas start to flow fairly easily; it’s just getting to that point that I’m struggling with. Luckily, it’s not hard to think of solid things to blog about when you’re living in a completely new area, adjusting to the good, the bad, and the ugly. So, enough of my ranting and slew of excuses; here goes nothing…again.

The topic: Close proximity. First I’ll attempt to explain how American’s view proximity, my view, as well as the perceived view of proximity right here in Taiwan. Based on this being my blog, obviously there’s going to be somewhat biased views as well as sociological questions that will probably never be answered, which I’m completely fine with.

Before stepping on the plane to come to Taiwan, I was aware that one’s personal space in America was NOT the same as one’s personal space in Asia. With that being said, this is probably the sole thing that I’ve had a hard time getting my head around. American’s seem to view personal space as a right; a God damn given right! (Insert American hick image here) Personal space really is just the area around people that certain cultures regard as psychologically theirs. In America, there’s no negotiation; it is what it is and there’s no crossing those boundaries. If someone gets even a toe into someone else’s space, they’ll find out very quickly. Now, comes my sociological thinking. You would think that after being surrounded by the same individuals, say at work, one would feel comfortable enough to break that personal space and allow people to stand closer in line at lunch, at meetings, etc., But no. When you’re brought up in a culture that values space, distance, and expectations that others will respect those boundaries, instinctually you obey the social norms of the culture. Have you ever tried walking into an elevator with only one other person in it, and standing right next to that person? I have. Not only did I feel like a creep, I could tell the other person wanted to punch me in the face.

Walking in amusement parks and fairs in America seem to be the same way as well. Yes, there are hundreds of people, but every single person still wants (and expects) the same amount of social proximity that you’d get in a grocery store. With that being said, there is a bit of leeway with areas that are expected to be crowded, but the underlying feeling is “stay far away from me unless you NEED to get close.”

Now to tackle the beast: Asia (more specifically Taiwan). I’m almost positive the word proximity does not exist in this culture. Here’s some mind blowing facts and numbers for you:

Taiwan has a geographical area of 35,980 km². With a population of 23,268,087, its average population density is 642/km2 (1,664/miles2). This makes it the 16th most densely populated country in the world. Population density in major cities is, as expected, much higher. In Taipei (where I live), 9,600 people live in every square kilometer.

Let me remind you, we are talking about a tiny Island off the coast of China. In most places, the cultural determinate of personal space is shaped by your geological location in the area such as urban, rural or suburban. Typically, the further away from a populated area you move, the more space you acquire, vice versa. So, after landing in Taipei and feeling the stress and discomfort of people on top of me, I hustled out of there. AHHHHH green lush land and small villages, there won’t be any social discomforts here! WRONG. In the villages (or at least the ones I visited) the people seemed to behave in the same way; people on top of people. It confused me because clearly there was enough space to move about freely, so instead, I took a deeper look into their history and focused more on their cultural upbringing than on their outward social behaviors.

Much like other countries, struggle for power engulfed Taiwan’s history, which allowed Taiwan to experience Japanese, Chinese, and even Spanish and Dutch culture. It was Mainland China’s customs that reigned above the rest and continue to have a strong presence in present day Taiwan. For obvious reasons, people in China don’t have personal space because they can’t afford to have personal space. There are too many people which makes the idea of space such a novelty.  So going back to the small village in Taiwan… space isn’t limited there so what’s the beef? It’s a combination of two things: the past shaping the present/future, and so the strong village ties people come to appreciate.

While I’m not going to go on and on about the overwhelming amount of genuine, helpful people here, in this blog post, I will say that you’ll never find nicer people than the people here in Taiwan. They’ll go above and beyond to ensure you are comfortable, feeling welcomed, and having a good time. Sometimes (I’m guilty of this myself) people can begin to feel feelings of resentment toward their constant social curiosity and cultural assimilation assistance just based on the simple fact that they conduct it all within your personal space. What I’ve come to learn is that personal space is non-existent; it’s a human made term created to help justify reasons for humans to keep their distance. If you think about it even further, you can even think of it as a socially/ culturally made detriment to society; a slow deterioration to our already deteriorating societal connection to one another.     

…and then I found $20. Haha but really, so much for ending on a positive note. Overall, personal space is what you make of it. It’s something that can really hold you back if you make it more apparent than what it really is. So, next time you’re standing in line, take that one step closer and see what happens. If they punch you, my bad, but you never know they may just start a conversation with you!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reflection 6/30-7/23/2013

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own.
Henry Ford

So here goes nothing. I’ve never written a blog, I’ve never wanted to and honestly, still don’t. I’ve heard many people say that if they could do it all over again, they would blog about their experiences, so alas, here I am. Leaving so abruptly was never the plan, but now that I think of it, nothing ever seems to go to plan. This can be a good and a bad thing. First, we’ll explore the latter..

The term “bad” I guess is relative (much like everything else), but in this case it means that I planned to join the Peace Corps and carry about the next 2.5 years of my life in a place I dreamed about for a good portion of my life. Then the plan was to find an entry level UN job, a secret long term goal of mine, however this didn’t happen. Instead, I ended up resigning from a very large and successful organization to pursue teaching. TEACHING?!? You may say.. Yeah I almost couldn’t believe it myself, but with a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate gathering dust in my closet, I figured it was worth a shot. I mean, what were the chances that out of how many different applications I would be chosen to go to a Country half way around the world, right? A Few short weeks later, and I plopped in Taiwan.  I left something that I was good at, but not passionate about, for the unknown. I left my amazing friends, family and comfortable lifestyle for something that I was banking on helping me discover my true calling and passion. So, despite it being hard to leave people that I cared so much about, it was even more difficult to look at my situation and hate where I was in life. I took a job right out of school in hopes of paying off a good portion of my loans, and traded in my happiness and drive in the process. So back to what I said before about luck. This is precisely where my luck changed, or at least that’s how I like to look at it.

I’ve always thought that it’s important to learn from the point of view of others. Although on a small scale, I struggle with it (like most people unless you’re God) from pointless tiff’s to full fledge arguments. I do, however, believe on a much larger scale the importance of embracing change. Change surrounds us and can either choke us or help us grow. I chose to grow with change. Some still may be confused with my not so straight career path, but it all make sense to me. Changes and how we react to changes, define who we are and who we want to become. I probably will not become an English teacher in the states, granted I can’t say for certain because I just started, however I know what my main goal is. I think of this as a unique opportunity to empower young children through language, while empowering myself through an atypical experience that will (hopefully) allow me to attain a career in which I want to wake up and go to.

Some people are driven by money, others by love, I’m driven by passion. I think that money, love and any other byproduct of whatever one thinks happiness is, comes from passion. Hence, maybe when things don’t go to plan, it’s because there’s something better out there for you. To quote the classics, “there may be something there that wasn’t there before.”

So, here it is; the first entry of my very first blog. From now on, it will mainly do with learning opportunities, new things I have discovered about the culture/people, as well as new things that I have discovered about myself.