What have you done in the last year that makes you proud? / What did you learn recently that changed the way you live?

It is important for me to reflect back on the last twelve months of my life. It has been almost a whole year since I sat in this same chair, wrapped in this same blanket, and created this blog. I was so full of intention.

Tonight I am actually writing this from my desktop computer, something that I rarely do, because my laptop is broken again (pretty sure Apple sold me a dud MacBook, but I’m like David over here trying to slay the giant). It’s actually very uncomfortable in our home office – my husband selected the decor, and it’s more for looking at than sitting on. However, it was this same computer that I created this blog ten months ago today, and so it takes me back to a certain time.

Last night I spent some time with a very dear friend of mine. She was a my college roommate, the very first person I met in the United States, and has been close to my heart since I stepped off of that plane over seven years ago. Last week she got engaged to a man that has been such a rock to her, and yesterday she asked me to be a part of their wedding party. Of course, I said yes.

Over the course of our evening together we talked at length about our friendship: the high points, the low points, and the things about each other that we weren’t aware we didn’t know. A few years ago my dear friend went through the biggest challenge of her life, and spent a year battling her way out of it. At the end of this year she met the love of her life, and the rest, as they say, is history. We talked about her tough times, and I shared with her my recent struggles, of which she was not yet aware.

The reason I am sharing this tonight is because I learned a lot about myself last night, and a lot about my friend, and a lot about the way that “most people” live their lives. We shelter the world from our emotions, often choosing to take a personal hit over risking exposing how flawed the world is, and how poorly it has treated us. My friend told me about her own dark path, and the steps she had to take to free herself from it: most of it I knew, but some of it I didn’t. At the end of our conversation I was sad that she had been in that position, angry at the world that had put her there, but mostly proud that she had come through.

When I look back on the last year of my life I am coming to a realization: I am going to be proud of the way I handled myself. I have made the active decision to disassociate myself from some people that have been harmful, and it has been a point of contention, and I really have had to question whether I have made the “right” decision. However, through my conversation with my friend last night I realized that there are people in this world that will take you at your lowest point and twist your soul, and once they have a grip on it they are impossible to shake off. I think that I shook myself free from those people in the last four weeks.

Before I sat down to write this blog post this evening I went into the bathroom to get a glass of water and stared myself straight in the eye. I found myself trying to picture my face a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago, but all I could see is the face looking back at me. Probably, I have not changed that much on the outside, but I feel that also the only person that matters in my life right now is who I am at this moment in time. And I might look tired (I really do look tired), and I might be starting to get some frown lines around my eyes (I’ve been frowning a lot recently), and I might be fifteen pounds heavier than I’d like to be, but I feel like a victor tonight.

Yesterday taught me that I have lived my life right recently. Prior to today I have doubted myself, and wondered if I would live to regret the choices I have made, but tonight I know that absolutely not. I have lived my life right recently, and I am proud of myself, and I really believe that only good things will follow.

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Would you break the law to save a loved one?

This question astounds me, simply because I struggle to conceive of an answer other than “of course”. Now, I’m not saying I would break EVERY law to save a loved one, or that I think it is right to break the law to save a loved one. I’m just saying I would do it. Just like jumping into a river to save a someone that is drowning – as a proficient swimmer I would know the risks associated, but every fibre of my body would throw me into that water. I couldn’t just sit and watch someone drown, I would honestly rather die trying to save them.

The idea of breaking the law to “save” a loved one is an interesting one. I’m assuming the questions is really designed around the concept of killing or hurting someone that is threatening a person that you care about, rather than, say, crossing a street illegally to tell a friend they are about to fall down a manhole. But then, acting in self defense isn’t actually a crime. So I think I’d need further clarification on exactly what thoughts – I’d be interested in other peoples opinon. What laws do you imagine having to break to save a loved one?

Beyond that, there isn’t really anything else I can say, except that I would do anything possible to save someone that I care about. I would also, I imagine, suffer from a terrible vengeful streak should the time arrive. I have no pretences of a Robin Hood style role for myself – I would probably turn myself over to the police if I were to do something like that. But if anyone did anything to take my family away from me, I would happily do the time in prison. My husband doesn’t think that I would actually think this way in that situation, but I’m pretty sure I would. He doesn’t have siblings, he doesn’t “get” it.

I think that, as a person, I would be so damaged if I stood by and watched something terrible happen without trying everything within my power to aid or resist it. The people that I love sustain who I am, and contribute to my sanity, peace of mind, and outlook on society. If someone takes that away from me, I’m a goner anyway.

Of course, I am saying all of this at a point in my life when I have no dependents (except the hubs, but I’m sure he could survive without me…. just). I know that those people fortunate enough to have children would probably approach this differently – that anything that risks jeopardising their life, freedom, or health would be an impossible option. Their choice is keeping the law to save and protect loved ones. It’s a similar responsibility.

I really am interested in other people’s responses to this question. Maybe it’s not so black and white to everyone else – I’ve been accused to incredible recklessness in my life, so maybe this choice is one that wouldn’t make sense to other people.

 

incidentally, adding tags to this post made me laugh my head off: Crime, Murder, Illegal, and Revenege were all added. I hope I’m not on some watch list now)

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?

Interesting question. I am going to interpret the question to mean something along the lines of: how old a life are you living?

As a society we are constantly looking at aging celebrities, college friends, family members and thinking “that person needs to grow up”. When I was a teenager I was often told I was “responsible”; I always knew exactly when and what time I would be meeting people, or which bus I would be on coming home. These were the pre-mobile-phone days, where definite plans needed to be made and adhered to. In college I kept a list of emergency numbers with me at all times, always completed my coursework at least 24 hours before the deadline, and, although I liked to go out and have a good time, rarely stayed out all night. I wasnot the type of person that needed to grow up, if anything, I needed to “grow down”.

When I got engaged at the tender age of 21 my mother said she wasn’t surprised that I’d gotten engaged so young. This fascinated me – the hubs and I had barely been dating six months, and I had always expressed the intention to not get married before thirty. But, looking back, I was always racing towards the idea of domestic bliss. I think I’ve always wanted to know exactly what the future looks like – I’m not spontaneous, and I’ve even been known to read the end of books first so as to know what I’m working towards. I feel comforted by knowing what the outcome is going to be. This is how I have been my entire life. I used to tell my friends that my ideal was “the four M’s – middle aged, married, post-menopausal, with a mortgage”. I remember how they would shriek in horror, professing that I must be crazy, and couldn’t imagine a life like that. Back then, I found that hard to believe – how did anyone not find that appealing on some level? the normality of it? the comfort.

However, now I am married and with a mortgage, approaching early middle age (twenty seven is my dreaded number, the age I’ve always feared, and it’s only a few weeks away), and with my biological clock firmly ticking (my doctor told me that “you just need to accept your body is slowing down” the other day). I think, on paper, most people would think the husband and I were in our late thirties. Walking round our home we have new furniture, carefully selected decor palettes, and all matching plates, mugs, and dishes. Last night we chose to stay home and eat soup rather than go out on the town!

How do I feel about it? Well, I alternate between loving it and thinking I’d trade it all in for the chance to backpack around the world. I think that everyone fears growing older once they’re actually doing it – especially as I’m doing it so much faster than my friends – because it doesn’t come with instructions. I don’t know how a person my age is “supposed” to act, or whether I’m doing a good job at it, but the only thing I can do is keep doing it and stay true to myself.

So today I am going to tackle the following questions in one response: Are you holding onto something you need to let go of? When you are 80 years old, what will matter most to you? And, when is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards and just do what you know is right?

Well. I have been in the unique position of having to address all of these questions at one time on two separate occasions in my life. The first was making the decision to follow my heart and allow myself to be with the man that is now my husband, and the second occasion is my present day life.

The first time I had to weigh up these turmoils in my mind I had to wrestle the idea of having trans-atlantic relationship with a man I, realistically, didn’t know that well; leaving my family and my homeland; making myself employable and desirable in a foreign country; the impossible large idea (especially for a 20 year old) that this might be my biggest regret if I didn’t go for it, and maybe this person was the person for me. I was much more romantic back them, with my notions of soul mates and such. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good decision and I love the hubs, but nothing is ever as clear cut as a twenty-year-old literature lover can dream it to be.

And so now I’m on the flip side, faced with a familiar dilemma. I love Kansas City, I have friends here. I don’t love the crime, and I don’t love the distances between places, and I don’t love the work ethic. I don’t love the idea of raising children miles away from their only potential cousins, or in an environment where I’d have to hand them over to daycare at eight weeks. I’m not fortunate enough to afford the luxury of staying at home when the time comes. And, seven years later, I’ve never adjusted to being so far away from my home. So you see, dear internet, I’m in a predicament.

What do I do?

What I would like to do is pack up my husband and my hound and board a plane. Our friends have passports, they can travel. I don’t want to cause pain and upset to my inlaws my stealing their only son and, after all, these people have been my family for the last five years, I’d miss them too. But without them we have nothing here, and that’s the realization it has taken me years to reach.

I miss the sea. I don’t want to wake up at seventy years old and realise I’ve only seen the ocean a handful of times since I was in my twenties. I’m used to seeing it every day. I think it’s soulful – it’s a part of me.

I know all the arguments for staying, and all the arguments for going back to front and inside out. I know what my heart wants to do. Strangely, and probably something most people would doubt about me, I actuallywanted to come here and find it enough, and to be able to allow my husband to be the only thing that mattered to me. But I’m not a Victorian, my post-feminism, liberated backside has dreams and preferences and loves of it’s own, and signing them away with my marriage license didn’t happen.

And the hubs really isn’t set against moving; at least not most of the time. Really, he’s been very flexible in his opinions on subject, other than the occasional “Dammit, woman, I’m American and I need steak and beer every day” moment. His main fears are for his family.

This post isn’t really to seek answers to declare a resolution – I know that these questions are going to be conversations that we have for a LONG time – I just know it’s the only honest answer to these three questions, even if the answers aren’t really answers, but more questions.

What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?

Sometimes it’s really hard to actually sit down and reflect upon all the things that I’ve done and achieved in my life. We live in a world where we always want more, always feel as though we should be more, or have more, or do more. It’s a race against ourselves, and normally a pursuit of pointless or meaningless things.

I am (nearly) 27 years old, and in my life I have been a daughter, a sister, a friend, a student, an employee, a girlfriend, a fiancée, an immigrant, a wife, a daughter-in-law, a hound-momma, and a home owner.

In my life I have travelled the world, got a college degree, written a thesis, been published in a book, stayed close with my family and friends, bought my own home, married a fantastic man, planned a wedding, survived the immigration process, met several famous people, raised a bratty dog, got and kept a good job in a poor economy, learned how to style my impossibly curly hair, and read thousands of books.

In my life I have had the opportunity to do many wonderful things, meet many wonderful people, I have had the chance to own my own property, work for a living; I have had encouraging friends, a loving family, and good employers. I have 1400 square feet of Missouri to fill with things I bought new, and to allow my dog to run around in.

I have done, been, and had plenty of things in my life – it’s really hard for me to consider wanting more.

If you had to teach something, what would you teach?

Let’s preface this entry with a widely known small fact about me – my family are teachers. All of them. I grew up in a converted Victorian school “The Old School House” – literally, the “old school” house, not the “old school house”. That’s a common mistake. People looked at it and said “if that was the school house, where was the school”, and always said, “in the lounge, study, my bedroom and my parents bedroom”. One big schoolroom full of Victorian school children learning Victorian things. When I was a child we had some of the old school desks with the heavy wooded lids and the ink wells stacked up in the back of the shed. It was marvelous, really, to think about it now – but back then, to me, it was a very normal house.

My parents are both educated people. My dad has more letters after his name than I even remember, and my Mummy is one of the best teachers I’ve ever seen, having dedicated over forty years to the sport. My wonderful twin sister spent some time teaching in Africa, and is now starting her teaching career in England. A lot of people, including myself, assumed that I’d become a teacher too. I even got accepted into one of the best education courses, but decided not to go. It wasn’t my passion at that time, and I didn’t want to take that opportunity away from someone who really wanted it.

People have said I’m a very altruistic person for the way that I think, but I don’t see it that way – I think that everyone should always encourage others to follow their passions and dreams, and by giving my spot to someone else I felt as though I was encouraging that nameless person to achieve their dreams, giving them the gift of a happy day when they found out they had been accepted, and giving countless children the gift of a truly passionate teacher for the next forty years. All children should be taught by teachers that have passion, it is the most important “secret ingredient” to learning.

So what am I passionate about? What would I teach? The natural choice, and what I was supposedto go and teach, was literature. Of course I love it, I’ve breathed it since I was three years old, and I would love to whip generations of young readers into a frenzy over favourite characters that would stay close to them always like friends. I’d also like to teach classics. I think this is residual from my experience of having a very passionate teacher – Mr Chappell – who taught me classics with such fervour that I felt it was impossible to not love the subject. I still get excited by classical topics and themes, often hearing his spry cockney accent jumping in the back of my head.

But hold on… (and here’s the REAL point of my post)… don’t we all teach something every day? Don’t our actions, words, and attitudes teach people things about ourselves, our families, our cultures? “OF COURSE” I hear you shout in unison, “Of course that is what we do!”. Yes, we are all teachers, or promoters, whichever you prefer. I would rather think of myself standing a front a room full of studious young adults than yelling about coupons over a microphone, so I’m going to choose the label TEACHER.

And what do I teach? Well, I hope that I will teach people tolerance and diversity. This is the one thing that I feel as though I need to teach to most of the people who I meet. There is so much prejudice in the world, so much ignorance and fear, it’s frightening. I was lucky to be raised in a pretty open minded household, my parents didn’t use derogatory language towards any group or country, and were well travelled. My school taught me the differences in religion, and assigned equal time to learn about each religion, including Christianity. I thought this was normal. And I was wrong,seriously wrong.

This week there has been a photograph of two male soldiers embracing after one returns from deployment, and it has rocked the internet. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but for a group of people who are educated enough to read, write, and use a computer… most people are just so cruel. Whatever happened to “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?”. We live in a world of education and knowledge, where it’s pretty safe to say that any human being can look at any other human being and say “oh look, we’re both humans, we’re made the same, we’re 99.9999999999999% genetically similar”. Why do we struggle to understand and accept people for their diversities and choices?

I look at the world and I see human beings. Some do things that others disagree with – few do terrible things to harm one or many people. I know people find it hard to forgive other people or to find reason for their actions, but it’s just not helpful to blame their race, gender, social status, sexuality, or religion. Nobody learns anything from these messages, only hate and fear.

When my children (the ones I don’t have yet) grow up I want them to say that I taught them never to hate anyone, never to judge people, and to be always thoughtful about other people’s life experiences. Sometimes, by trying to set the example and teach others something, we make ourselves better at it in the process. Like speaking French, which I can’t do anymore but the people I tutored can; I don’t want my point of view to become like my french – broken, not beautiful.