I'll Love You Just The Same

Hey World,

Yesterday I was able to call two really special people in my life from Tanzania after 14 months of radio silence; one of my favorite students Boniphace, and my Mama K.

Boniphace and I

As soon as we heard one another's voices, we were both giddy. Boniphace couldn't stop jumping up and down on the other end of the line, and kept saying "I knew it was you!". Mama K kept laughing. And I walked down the dusty lane with the biggest, dopiest smile on my face. It was the happiest I've been since arriving (which as you know, is hard to beat) -- it just felt so good to have reconnected with two people who meant so much to me.

When I came home, it was my intention to write a blog post about the importance of being connected and staying connected to others, using my phone calls with Mama K and Boniphace to springboard into a larger conversation.

However, as I started writing, I remembered an old post I had filed away a couple of months ago (I do this once in awhile when I write something but it's not quite yet time to share it) about connectivity, love and relationships.

 I think this is possibly more fitting.

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Once in awhile, you have to get personal. Typically, I enjoy writing blog posts, or the occasional short letter in greeting cards (I love sending greeting cards!!!) but sometimes you need more than just a quarter sheet of paper or a one-track post to express some of the feelings that you've kept inside for awhile. I've talked about being unhappy on here, and I've talked about overcoming my own barriers.

But I've yet to talk about love, so I'm going to take a moment and do just that.

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Hi,

I know this is a bit after the fact and I probably should have told you sooner....but I figure now may be as good a time as any to tell you that I love you. 

I want to tell you that whenever I think about you, my heart sings; that you remind me about all that is right in the world; and that at least once, you brought a smile so big to my lips that my face hurt or a laugh so gargantuan it made it hard to breathe. 

I want to let you know that from the moment I laid my eyes on you, I knew I would never forget you. I still haven't. From the instant we made contact, I knew the bond would be unforgettable. 

I'm sorry I never told you earlier that I loved you...it's just that, well, I don't know where you are now. Or how to find you. Or maybe even your name. Or maybe I know all of those things. 

But I can't say for certain...
Because the truth is: I do not just love you (even though I do love you).

 I love you, and hundreds, if not thousands, of other yous: people who came into my life and made me happy, who made my day better, or who put my mind into a yearlong tailspin. I love the yous who stayed, the yous who left, and the yous who I know won't stick around forever. 

Reasons Why I May Love You:

...because we saw one other as I zoomed by on the back of a motorcycle and instead of glaring at me, you waved back.

 ...because you remembered me from the day before.

...because you are one of my best friends.

...because you looked like the kind of person who is determined to become somebody, and I admire that in you.

...because the gift you gave me was so thoughtful, it made me cry.


                                                                               photocredit
...because you let me on the bus even though I didn't have enough change. 

...because I know you will always be there.

...because the memories we made can never be forgotten.

...because you looked to see if I was okay after I tripped on the sidewalk, and it meant a lot. 

...because I think you own your truth.


...because we will always be able to pick up exactly where we left off. 

...because you love me, unconditionally. 

...because you help me be a better me. 
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Despite all of these reasons, you might have moved on or you might have forgotten about me already. Or maybe, just maybe, you think about me all of the time too. I guess I may never know. It doesn't really matter...I'll love you just the same. 

I'll love you because you shared a moment (or a million moments) of your life with me, and for that, I will be forever grateful. 

xoxo,
M


This Path Leads Home

Hey world,

The funny thing about the last few days in Tanzania is that I've been totally calm, cool and collected. There was no giant rush of exhilaration or excitement; no fear or stroke of nerves.

It was just, well, familiar.  

My plane landed, and it felt as though there was nowhere else in the world I should be. I spent the night in Dar es Salaam with friends, and it felt like it was totally normal I was at a sidewalk cafe eating sizzling vegetables. The next morning, I sat in amicable silence with my driver for 8 hours as we drove to my new house in Iringa. A few hours later, I attended a welcome party/get-together my team organizes each Friday, and as I stood in a room with people I hardly know, it didn't seem weird.

It just felt right.

 Morogoro Region, Tanzania

Like my path shouldn't have led anywhere else but where I stand right now. 

Gangi Longa, Iringa, Tanzania

Like all roads somehow led to my house in Iringa.

Gangi Longa, Iringa, TZ

Like the roads led me back home. 
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There was a Thought Catalog post that went up today called "The Hardest Part About Traveling No One Talks About" (you can read it HERE) that says that once you travel, or live abroad for a period of time, and return home, you realize that a part of you has changed; an internal shift has taken place where people can't understand "The way your dreams have changed, the way you perceive people differently, the habits you're happy you lost, the new things that are important to you". 

And it's this shift that can't quite be put into words, that can't quite be self-managed or tamed, that causes tension and turmoil within yourself -- and causes that intense desire to leave once more to root in your heart. 

The author Kellie Donnelly finishes the article by saying "They call it the travel bug, but really it's the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it's like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited. This is the hardest part about traveling, and it's the very reason why we all run away again". 

I would challenge her phrase "run away again", as it makes it seem as though we are fleeing the uncomfortable rather than seeking to return to the familiar. Perhaps its as much one as the other, but I'd like to think that I returned to the familiar. 

 Despite that, this article largely sums my feelings between Tanzania, living in NYC, my desperation to return to East Africa, and that comfort and familiarity I felt as soon as I touched African soil. It's worth a read. 

As for me, I started work today and I'm still getting settled into my new home. Soon, I'll introduce you to all of that. But for now, go enjoy your week, and I'll enjoy mine!

xoxo,
M

Today Is My Day; Walk With Me

Hey World,

TODAY IS MY DAY.


By the time you read this, I've already gotten on the plane (at 6am -- SO EARLY) and started the journey. Soon, or maybe as your eyes move across the screen, I'll be flying over the Atlantic Ocean, taking a 3 hour pit-stop in Dubai, UAE and then heading down to Tanzania. 

I will arrive in Dar es Salaam in the afternoon of the 24th,  and 24 hours later I'll hopefully be pulling into my new driveway by 4pm (TZ time) on the 25th! That is, if the 6AM taxi pickup to drive me 10 hours goes according to plan. *fingers crossed*

(assuming I'm going directly, which I'm not)

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So that's me. That's where I am (literally) and where I'm going (even more literally). 

Now it's time for you: I just want to say that no matter what your age is and whatever your dreams are, they. are. possible. 

There is no time like right now to sit down, write out what you want to do with your life, and come up with a plan to make it happen. Step number one? GO MAKE IT HAPPEN. 

If you have to, make a list of all of the reasons you can't (ie: excuses), and then go outside, and light that list on fire. Stomp on the ashes and let the wind blow them away. 
Or rip it up into a million pieces until you can no longer put it back together. 
Or drive to a large body of water, wrap it around a rock with some twine, and throw it as far as you can. 

And then get back in your car, or walk back into the house, or sit back down in your chair, and begin the implementation of your dream. Because if you don't do it now, when will you? 

When you have more than enough money? 
When you have the time? 
When you have less responsibilities? 
When the Universe sends you a crystal clear sign? 

That time may never come. Don't waste your passion. 

Join me. Walk with me. Let's follow our dreams together. 
The path starts wherever your feet begin moving. 

xoxo,
M

About To Leave A Place

Hey World,

I leave for Tanzania in two days. I am no longer certain if I am ready or not. I'm packed, but my stuff is not yet in bags. I am prepared, but I'm not sure if I can will my legs to move me onto the airplane just yet. There are things on my to-do list that I can't seem to get myself to accomplish, because once it's done....well, then I will have nothing left to do but leave.

Is that what ready is? A really short to-do list and an insatiable appetite for puffed cheese snacks? If so, then I couldn't be more ready.

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Part of that whole "being ready" thing is saying a lot of goodbyes. You know, last hurrahs and final hugs. Goodbyes are hard though because you never know if a goodbye may be your last, or just a prolonged 'see you later'. It's hard because goodbyes for me mean having to admit that the big life decisions I make come with consequences -- that I'll miss family dinners and birthdays and parties and celebrations for another protracted period of time. Goodbyes are hard because we trust just a word and a hug will be able to convey our love and our sadness and our happiness and our missing-ness. And finally, they're hard because I have to remind people that while I'll be physically gone, I'm still able to communicate (daily, if wanted!) yet after I've said goodbye, most of my friends have already stopped texting me like they used to. 

Overall though, I guess I'm as ready as anyone could ever be. I'm excited for this new chapter. I'm looking forward to my new job, new friends/colleagues/roommates, a new place, a new routine. Not jumping up and down excited (I've been taking too many stress naps* for that), but thrilled nonetheless.

Yep, this is my "thrilled" face -- after 99 too many puffed cheese snacks. 
Today and tomorrow will be filled with finalizing some things: getting my stuff INTO their transportation devices (aka duffel bags), going to the bank one last time, setting up my loan repayments (yay to being an adult!), getting a final pedicure, and doing who-knows-what-else that needs to be done. 

And if all goes as planned, I'll have one more post before I take off!

xoxo, 
M

"You get a strange feeling when you're about to leave a place. Like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you'll never be this way ever again." - Azar Nafisi



*PS: If you also stress nap, or know ways to stop stress napping, please share. It's become a newly formed habit and I don't like it at all!

Off the Grid: Lake Placid, NY

Hey World,

Since this is very much a travel/exploration blog, I'm going to start a new section today that hat-tips from an older post when I went #offthegrid for a week and realized that happiness can be determined based solely by what's outside your window.

Therefore, my first post from Off the Grid will be from this past weekend when my mom and I headed to Lake Placid, NY (in the Adirondacks) for three days of celebration, exploration and serenity. The weekend was a lot of fun, and a lot of great memories were made.

However the most beautiful moments in the Adirondacks were those when I was either floored by the absolute beauty of my natural surroundings and was just able to stand there for a second and soak it all in, or when I found a tiny way to connect with the natural world for an instant (except the bee that followed me for a half mile...I didn't like connecting with him).

It was forging a path to see the stream from a better vantage point; it was hugging a tree that successfully grew on a giant boulder; it was noticing that it wasn't the only tree in the forest that defied the odds of being rooted in rock; it was finding a stream of cold spring water and sipping from that rather than a purchased bottle of water; or admiring the way the sun filtered through the leaves. It was realizing that all of these photos can hardly do the region justice.


























Isn't this just the most stunning photo in the world? 
Obviously I had to give it a hug!




But it was in all of the moments documented above that reminded me just how much I love being on a path unpaved -- how calming it is to slow down and soak in the world that exists around me, and how frustrated I was to live so far away from the stunning outdoors (sorry NYC, but Central Park just doesn't cut it).

And then I got excited because in a week, I'll be moving somewhere I can do just that. 

What's the next time you'll be off the grid? Where will you go?

xoxo,
M

Farewell, NYC

Hey World,

Last night I slept on a towel with my two remaining pillows and a thin blanket, and fell asleep for the last time in the only apartment I’ve been able to call my own. The lights from 5th Avenue and the Harlem River and the Armory bathed over me, and the hum of my air conditioner which I’ve become so accustomed to puttered out cool air for one final night of rest. It was peaceful; it always is.

This morning I woke up with the sun, and set to work removing all traces of my life lived in this space before my 9:30AM move-out appointment. Listening to Childish Gambino on repeat, I swept and swiffered, I scrubbed and wiped, I made trash runs and donation runs. And after hours of work, my apartment finally looked exactly like it had before I started – not mine. Empty. Ready for a vision.

Moving out was anti-climatic. I handed over a key and walked out the threshold of my door, then the elevator, then the lobby, then the outer gate. It was nothing but a forward motion. Luckily I had a number of very nice men help me carry my bags, hail a taxi, haul it onto the bus. No tears, no one waving, no one really caring- myself included.


For the 11 months I was here in New York City, it was never mine. Let me correct that: we were never one another’s – we simply cohabitated with a simple nonchalance. Back in October I began imagining a NYC stint that lasted less than the 2 years I expected; I applied to fellowships that would allow me to learn elsewhere. Then in January I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t stay regardless, and started really chasing an exit strategy. Of course, one came, and I’ll be starting a new chapter two weeks from today.

Yes, the food in NYC is great. The transportation is rather efficient. The community is eclectic. There’s culture and personality. There’s street art and performance and government and rules and tourists and cops and views of architectural achievement. For many, it is a place of opportunity, of expansive choice, of dreamers and flourishing dreams. It was the site where I came into contact with some fabulous individuals, whose friendships I hope will transcend the borough-limits and stretch across continents and decades.

But there are also the remnants of a broken society on every sidewalk – shards of glass, smears of poop (species unknown), discarded gum and stains of urine and rain and air conditioner drips comingling in the cracks. Broken dreamers sit on stoops and beg on trains. Dreamers are forced to move from their homes as it gentrifies, as jobs leave, as opportunity shifts to another. Strangers don’t speak to one another, don’t make eye contact, don’t fall into stride as they walk. Acquaintances and friends allow plans to fall through, or not even be made at all. Bubbles are put up in order to protect from possible bursts. People slip into anonymity and become impenetrable – myself included. It was a feature of myself I loathed from the moment I embodied it.

It wasn’t a way to live. This City could never be home for me…because it never was.

Farewell, NYC.


Let us go our own ways now, smiling as we reflect on the many ways that we’re both better off.

xoxo,
M