25 November 2014

a birthday essay of sorts

November 25th, we meet again. The more we meet, I'm not sure whether I want to pinch your darling cheeks or sucker punch you hard. There is always a big love/hate relationship with birthdays, amiright? Thankful for one more year (unless it was a bad one) or cursing the blasted year previous. I like to look at my day as one that is my own personal New Years Day. **JORDAN'S NEW YEAR'S DAY.** Sounds super gratuitous and selfish? Eh...but let me have this, it is my birthday after all.

As many people know, I put a heavy stock into traveling. I am currently typing this from a very uncomfortable airport lounge seat with the smell of my leftover Manchu Wok orange chicken wafting nearby. But its fine. It really is. You wanna know why? Because just like every New Year teaches us something new about ourself, I think traveling teaches me just as much. Let's arrange a marriage between the two.

Traveling really is my favorite thing ever. It started when I was 10, and my parents took me to the Bahamas. The rush as the engine started and the drop in my stomach when we took off. Looking out the window to the water that was one of the prettiest things I had ever seen in real life. And most importantly, doing it all with people I love.

I do not pretend to have the answers. But let me at least drop my own personal knowledge on you. I am a teacher, okay? This may come as super juvenile ideas, and perhaps they are but they are mine, and I would like to document this time in my life to return back to. This past year was a powerful year in my life. It had some super great moments. You know those kind that make you want to freeze time, curl up and get lost right then forever? Yeah, those. It also was filled with moments that I'd like to send right back to their maker. Buuuuuut if I'm being honest, though, I wouldn't trade this year for anything. Why? Because all the bad and good create this wild journey that keeps me coming back for more. I've had some pretty horrendous things happen in my journey, life and travel, but it doesn't hold me back from continuing on, does it? So, let's go with my year of learning, mmkay?

Be on time. 
Sure, by my age, this is a late lesson. ( o o p s  ) But! this year, I made it a vow to be better about it, and I can say, it has made me feel better. Not just because rushing around is the worst but because whatever it is, I don't know, it feels more...respectful (?) to be there on time. Like, not that I ever was trying to NOT be respectful, but you know what, life isn't going to wait on you. As important as we may think we are, we really aren't, just like the NYC debacle of 2009 when I missed my flight because I was late and had to sleep overnight in the international section of the airport... Life, man. It really likes for you to be on time and just be there.

Sometimes people are really just doing their job to keep you safe...from others and yourself. Let them have that.
TSA. The one place you can get felt up before your morning coffee or even a hearty hello. But you know what? I don't mind it because I know they are just doing their job. And can I just say, that is not a job I would really want...but I respect it. The workers have to tell people things the people do not want to hear, they have to sort through belongings--some probably embarrassing, they have to ask the blunt questions. This year I learned just how important it is to surround yourself with people who will protect you. They will do the uncomfortable things, say the not-so-nicest things in order to help protect you from yourself and others. I have gained some of the very best friends in this journey of mine who have been in my corner through some rough times this year. They have said things that weren't necessarily what I wanted to hear, but I needed to hear. They were my protectors. They helped me get rid of the junk and examine things closely in my life to help me proceed to the journey. Y'all those kinds of friends. Those are the ones you want on your journey right beside you.

Judging is not my place.
This year, I have learned that we really don't know what is going on with anyone. Sure, that is a ballsy statement, but it is true. I am learning still that people are all fighting fights that are their own. And they are big to them. It really doesn't matter if they are big to you or not. BECAUSE IT IS NOT YOUR FIGHT. I had some major humbling things happened this year that even still make me happy to be going where I'm going, no matter how much they try to knock me down. And that took a lot of time to get to that place because at first I was bitter. I was mad. I was also afraid of judgement from others, which looking back, was so silly. I was reminded in a small way this afternoon when I boarded my flight from Denver to Dallas. I walked to 31E, a middle seat, to find a woman sitting on the other side of my seat, holding her bright-eyed 8-month-old baby girl. Insert face palm and words that probably aren't suitable for my grandmother to read here. I thought to myself, WHY ME? I am doomed for an extra long flight with a screaming baby and IT IS MY BIRTHDAY. The plane started, and I got super nervous, just waiting for the wailing to start. We took off, no sound. We'd been in the air 15 minutes, no sound. I finally looked to my left to see the brightest, biggest blue eyes framed by a lavender bow the size of her head and topped with the widest grin. Wanna know the sound she made on the trip? Cooing. C O O I N G. You know, that uber magical sound that babies make? That giggly cooing that should be recorded and looped and sold worldwide? Yeah...no crying. Just slobbery, otherworldly adorable-ness for an entire flight. And she loved me and my big ring and my long hair, and I loved her back. This tiny human I had judged at first glance. Stupid Jordan is such a chump.

Do something that scares you: taking the leap is important in life.
I don't care how many times I fly, the whole taking off and landing still gives me butterflies a little. But just like we love to do things that scare us a little: fly, ride a roller coaster, perform in public, watch a horror movie, get married, have a baby--once the leap is taken, those usually are the things that make us feel most alive and happy. This past year I took two separate trips overseas with high school students, many who had never traveled before. I was a nervous wreck both times because you know, what could go wrong here, I wonder? But seeing them do things that were brave for them: flying for the first time, going on the London Eye, trying new cuisine, feeling empowered by knowing where we needed to get off on the subway: it melted that worry. It kept me going. It made me thirst for more adventure, instead of wallow in worry.

You are not alone, and it is ok to let people help you. 
One thing that I love about traveling, that some people do not, is the people I meet along the way. I rarely meet a stranger and hearing what little I do of their story will always be one of my favorite things in life. And even when I travel alone, I love that I am still not alone. I am surrounded by culture and language and smells and sounds and people who are on their own journey, whatever that may be. Something big that happened this year for me was the act of being vulnerable- not my strong suit. Being a feminist (humanist, more like it), I always want to practice and preach:  humility, grace, and confidence. Having a natural sense of independence can make it difficult to relate to people on a level that may exude dependance. HOWEVER, this year I have learned how important it is to let people lower their guard with you, as you also lower yours with them. Realizing that you need something or someone is not a show of weakness but strength. I thought asking for help meant that I had failed. I couldn't do it alone and that made me fragile. This year there have been some tough conversations going on, which forced me to reevaluate things and also made me realize that I shouldn't try to do things all on my own sometimes. Because I am not alone, thankfully. I am part of a tribe of people who take me how I am: the messy, the happy, the sad, and everything in between. People who I can be my most authentic self with. I cannot stress the importance of having people in your life who you can be the most you, whatever state that may be.

Waiting/Things not being in your control.
I am currently rocking a three hour layover in Dallas (what up, 2-1-4?). Is this how I would have preferred to spend the last few hours of my birthday? #nope But! Had it not happened, I wouldn't have even really had this unadulterated time to reflect on the past year of my life. #winning Waiting is good, y'all. Sometimes not having immediate feedback and answers does a body good. This year has been a good waiting year for me which is difficult for an antsy broad such as myself. A lot of times I wanted immediate answers but still got a busy signal. Living in such a crazy, busy world, I feel like we've lost our patience (I know I have). We live in an immediate culture that demands things how we want them, when we want them. But you know what can be the very best thing ever? Silence. Complete and utter silence. And being alone. Silent and alone. Another thing about traveling is how there are a lot of things that are simply out of your control. Delayed flight? You can't do anything about it. Lost bag? Not in your control (unless you work in baggage at the airport --at which point I need to say, let's be besties because my bags are ALWAYS delayed, hokay?). Same way in life. There are things that go on that you have zero control over, and guess what, it is going to be alright. It really is. Because realizing things aren't in your control is actually a liberating feeling sometimes or so this lady believes.

So here's to another year, November 25th. Thank you for being you. And for being there for me every year. Thank you for what you've taught me this year. Thank you for giving me these experiences to collect on my continuing journey. Let's make this year one of the greats and see the world.