Sunday, May 17, 2015

When I did some hard shit

Despite popular belief, studying abroad in New Zealand has not been all rainbows and waterfalls.  It actually splashed some freezing as (appreciate my use of Kiwi slang) water in my face.  And I’m not talking about the splashes I’ve willfully made into painfully cold water bodies along the trails. 

A transformation of self was… considered, but not quite expected.  Would my time abroad help me figure out what I want to do with my life? Would I figure out the “next big step”?

Yea well, studying abroad only confirmed my confusion about how one tackles the world. 

I instead endured a tormenting, yet straightforward self-evaluation these last few months.

My flat mates and I stumbled upon the “36 Questions to Bring You Closer to Someone” developed by psychologists, and decided to stay up late one night and ask each other them.  One in particular stuck out to me…

The Question: If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

My answer: Am I a good person?

One first has to start out with an even more difficult challenge, what defines a decent human being?

I can’t answer that. I’ll never be able to answer that. I’m not even sure the damn crystal ball could answer that. 

The best approach one could possibly take to figuring that out is a long, excruciating, and 100% honest self-assessment.

Here’s the blatant facts…

1.  I am selfish.

I grew up an only child.  I take more than I give.  I started to realize that my freshman year of college when I had to share a room for the first time.  And while I’ve made a dramatic improvement to this weakness, I still have work to do. 

2.  I avoid confrontation

The world has every right to walk all over me because I’ve let it.  My flat mate graciously laid it out in blatant terms for me: “You’d rather let yourself bleed before watching someone else bleed.”

Sure, it’s nice to be considered that nice girl who couldn’t hurt a fly, blah blah blah.  But it’s a hell of a lot nicer to confront a situation in a classy, and let’s not forget, sassy, manner. 

There’s that cliché saying– “If you want respect you have to earn it.”  Well, I truly want to give people the benefit of the doubt.  And I’ve picked up this bad habit of making excuses for others’ ill-mannered actions. 

That’s a practice I’ve finally had the courage to toss in the trash. 

I do still wish to hold on to the hopeful view I have of the world and its inhabitants.  So turning the cliché around in a way more suitable for me - if you want my disrespect, you have to earn it.  

Coincidentally enough, I happened to come across someone plagiarizing this very blog.  Given this is an outlet for me that I put a significant amount of time and effort into, as well as take personal pride in, I was livid.  Three months ago, the unself-assessed Emily may not have even confronted the situation.  And if she had, she would have done it in a polite, I-still-want-to-be-friends-no-hard-feelings manner.  Lets just say I didn’t come remotely close to falling back on my previous (and utterly pathetic) means of “confrontation.”

3. Sharing feelings is an ocean of dark, uncharted waters for me.

Propose a pillow talk with gossip and boy talk? I would rather vomit profusely all over the pillow.

Super cheesy social media posts, or worse, crying in public? Not exactly my forte.

Some may not consider this reserved aspect of me a limitation, but it’s become self-detrimental.  Especially whilst attempting to adopt “womanhood”.

I’m not remarkably different from a 12-year old boy.  I enjoy playing in mud.  I wear gym clothes for about 99% of my life.  I fart in front of my disgusted friends and laugh about it.  I take pride in acquiring battle wounds from climbing trees, buildings, etc. and thoroughly enjoy picking the scabs off later.  I like seeing how far I can project a snot rocket.  And above all, I hate mushy-gushy-lovey-dovey anything.  Try to maturely approach me with the subject, and I will throw things and jump on furniture.  

Real life wake up call: I’m a 20 year-old soon-to-be Junior in college. 

And while I hope to never grow out of my child-like ambiance or lose my passion for adventure, it may be time to shed some of the mud-caked skin.  It may be time to toughen up and share..."feelings" and things that drives me crazy, no matter how much it scares me to do so. 

There are some personal barriers I’m ready to knock down.  And I’m proud to say that since coming to this country, I’ve recognized them, and have boarded the bulldozer to begin smashing my way through these self-constructed walls. 

On a better note, I’ve begun to recognize what I like about myself.  I also owe a huge thank you to my flat mates who helped bring these attributes to my attention. 

1. A love for loving life 

I tend to view the world through an idealistic, romantic lens.  I grew up in a privileged family.  I’ve had the gracious opportunity to attend college, travel, and experience the world.  And if I were to die tonight, I’d go satisfied with the beauty I have had the honor of seeing (don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty more I wish to see and discover).

But I’m also fully aware of the adversities and evils harbored within it.  To ignore this would be naïve, and painfully ignorant.  I’ve had the honor (yes, I call this an honor) of growing up and working in an economically deprived town, and seeing the not-so-shiny corners of life.  I’ve had the honor of watching the news at night, and learning of the lowest of lows happening oceans away from me.  Some people are truly crazy.  And some are just plain evil. 

It’s a fucked up place out there. 

But detract humanity from the picture, and the world is a majestically admirable place.

Knowing this, I strive to embrace the romantic, idealistic aspects of it that I’ve fallen in love with.  The geological beauties of Earth significantly surpass the manmade detriments placed upon it.  And unfortunately, there’s an incredible amount of humanity submerged beneath the detriments.  But I am privileged, and have had the fortune to embark experiences that provided me with this romantic lens of the world.  I try to live and share what I’ve seen and done (a huge reason for the start up of this blog) in respect for those who can’t.  

2. Self Awareness

No, it doesn’t feel good to call myself selfish.  Or utterly pathetic due to my inability to openly communicate with people.  It’s embarrassing to recognize just how immature I am.  It’s an uncomfortable feeling to assess everything that I dislike about myself.  And an equally terrifying thought, what the people I love might dislike about me.  

Don’t care what people think about you? Good for you. 

But for me, there are people I truly respect and love, and I genuinely care about what they think of me.  And after conducting a self-assessment, there are things I can improve upon that will help me respect myself and strengthen my relationships with my friends and family even more.    

My self-awareness is an attribute I’ve grown to simultaneously love and hate, and know in the long run will help me grow into the person I want to be.

3.  Go happy, go lucky, go with no idea of what will happen, but just go. 

I’ve had a couple of eye-opening trips here.  Hell, all of them have been eye-opening.  And ya know what? Some of them I never would have the honor of partaking in if I didn’t have a happy-go-lucky mindset. 

I already talked a little about the spontaneous decision I made in doing the Kepler track in "The Twin Paradox of Emily in New Zealand: Part 2".

When I did Milford track, which happens to be the most beautiful place I have been to EVER IN MY LIFE, I started off with a nasty sinus infection.  Nothing big, but I wasn’t keen on enduring 3 days in the midst of Fiorldand National Park (one of the wettest places in the entire world) with a plugged set of ears, sore throat, and nose running more than I had in months.  There was also the fact we were doing the track off-season, meaning the huts weren’t serviced, the weather was colder, and the days were shorter.  I actually tried selling my bus ticket the week before the trip. 

And I thank every universal force that no one showed interest in buying them.

We had three days of blue skies… that’s unheard of in Fiordland.  Looking out over Mackinnon Pass with its bizarre mountains, clouds rolling beneath me through the valleys carved between, surreal ponds exhaling their steamy breaths, and a Kea parrot circling above me, is a memory I’ll hold on to for life.

For the full album, click here

I saw the best views I may ever encounter.  I fully embraced just how lucky I am to be in this country and realized what a special period of my life this is.  And to think I might have spent that Saturday morning curled up in my bed with tea and a box of tissues. 

Back to my point…

I still have no idea what I want to do for the rest of my life.  I still set fire alarms off while cooking aka making toast. 

But, I know who I am.  Weirdly enough, most people don’t know who they are.  And weirder enough, an honest and brutal self-evaluation is one of the harder things one may ever endure.

It was a challenge I had not expected to endeavor, let alone one to take so seriously and sort of succeed at.  

I came to New Zealand for the landscapes and the lifestyle.   I had not pictured a critical self-assessment in the cards for me. 

But the world of cliché’ wasn’t joking when it said life’s full of surprises. 

Here I caught myself in the midst of one.

Keep Happy,

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