against the grain or insecure excuse?

Sometimes I’m not sure which I am. I get really defensive about things like people marrying right out of college or earlier, or people being afraid of dining alone….but is it that I support those things that I choose or because I choose them out of necessity?

Lately, I’ve begun feeling like it was insecurity. I would save money all week by eating handouts at work and not buying groceries (because cooking for one seems pointless!), then blowing all the saved money at the end of the week making up for what I didn’t eat before…and doing it alone. Just last week, a guy came up to me and said “You’re not seriously here alone, are you?” to which I retorted, “No, I’m just reading a book with all of my friends (gestured to empty high table) [jackass]”…

Notions like that make me wonder why I’m alone all the time. Or like when I walked from Lakewood to Whiskey Island alone last night and some dudes on bikes shouted after me “Hey, girl, where’s your boyfriend??” [“Where’s yours??”]… I wonder, but then I go to make arrangements and they fall through too often that I remember.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to live with someone. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have things “figured out”. But the reality is, I do have things “figured out”. And if I hadn’t ended my long-term relationship in college, I may have never done a lot of things and become ME. And THAT is why I think no girl in my generation who has finished college at 22 should marry before 25.

Because I didn’t follow the alleged “norm”, I got to visit over 30 countries in one year. Because I continue to neglect the “norm”, I can walk around Edgewater Park on the 4th of July without a date and not care. I can visit any restaurant I want whenever I want and not need company or reservations. I can read a book at a bar stool and not care for a second. I can bike whenever I please to wherever I want, play in any hockey league or on a softball team and have only work to confine me. I can volunteer and spend time with my elderly neighbor and learn more than any married woman at my age could dream of learning. And I’m pretty glad that’s the path I ended up on.

I’m not saying I don’t eventually want what other women have – it’s just right now I have too many other things to worry about. There are too many places to see, too many people to help,…and I would be fine if that’s all I ever do. The only time I worry I won’t be fine is if I worry too much about what “society” says. Well, forget you society. Because society also made me think a guy who was as angelic as guys get would never hurt me, and he’s topped even the somewhat abusive relationship I came out of in college. Nothing cuts deeper than words of hate. Not even a bully locking you in his room and restraining you from going home. The only perk is this is the kind of behavior I can freely walk away from, and that’s what I’m doing.

So Kayla, stop telling yourself this lifestyle is an excuse – because it’s clearly a choice. Like when all of your friends last minute say they can’t make the movie and you go alone anyway – you’re just realizing the value in life experiences doesn’t have to correlate with how many people are there to experience them with you.

feeling so small.

I’ve shut out some friends lately who have become damaging. I noticed their absence more than ever today when I sat alone in a frozen cow pasture.

I just got back from two weeks overseas, but I filled my weekend with travel and distraction from what’s been eating me alive. Well, last night I had four hours of sleep before finding myself driving towards Wheeling, WV, Frankie Ballard blasting, then the stillness of a hilltop field as I waited for my subcontractors.

No one. Anywhere. Just the birds and the frost and some lonely cows. I could have been home again.

That freeness reminded me also of the vastness of the world, the humbling sensation of feeling pathetic which travel often instills in me. Like when I hiked the Calanques solo last July, emptied my canteen, and realized how easily I could die in that desert and no one would know. Or this month when I stood on the Bettmer alp and beheld the frozen cruelty of Swiss altitudes and how small I am.

So small, in fact, that what are my woes? What are my complaints? Who are the tiny people who hurt me and bring me down?

All those people I left behind when I drove to the cow pasture, they could stand before me and still be as distant and small. I am small and so are they. And there are so many more of them because this world is full of people who could treat me better or worse in the snap of a finger.

I am small, and not just because my construction clothes in XS short are still too baggy and long on me. I am small because I represent so little of the matter on this planet, so little of matter to a stranger. But I can control how much I matter to someone just as much as I can control how much someone matters to me.

And now I’m in Columbus traveling towards the Indiana state line and I’m still as small, but my accomplishments are big. My strength is bigger. And those mean, selfish pains in my side I left in Cleveland are diminishing with my distance and my apathy.

It is so humbling being small.

who would i be?

Flying from Ohio to Virginia today, I got to thinking about planes.  I could see two planes on the horizon.  I could see the shadow of my plane on the tops of the clouds.  There are planes everywhere, and I was only seeing a handful.  The flights so short.  The trips so far.  How could so many people have so many places to go?

I thought about the world and how interconnected it is.  I thought about how this changes our perspective, how it makes our “needs” just become more frivolous “wants”.  How it encourages our outrageous American sense of entitlement.

Just today, I was sitting back in the soils lab talking to Jeff and then I blurted out, “Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we just didn’t have air conditioning, heating, electricity?  If we didn’t have those expectations and then the simpler life would be so much more?  Wouldn’t we have less stress and less obligation and be better off?  And I wouldn’t need to worry about my hair looking lousy today or the fact that I had to put on a tank top under this shirt because I panicked when I realized you can see my bra…”

He laughed at my outburst, but he agreed.  And I think it’s true.

Then I wondered, what if… what if we didn’t live in this frantic era?  Here I am, starting a long journey overseas, ready to “seize” and “define” and “become” and “challenge” – but what in the world does that all mean anyway?  What if we didn’t have those opportunities?

Who would I be?

My incessant journeys abroad arose out of a panicky scramble when my personal life was falling apart, my academic life seemed too uninteresting to ever land a job, and my graduation date was approaching too soon for me to actually graduate.  There was no glorious find-myself-out-there moment or decision or scholarship…it was just GET ME OUT OF HERE and DEAR GOD HELP ME GET BACK ON TRACK.  Back on track in EVERY aspect of my life.

I was a mess.  What else would cause me to move temporarily to West Africa ALONE??

Every time I ride a train in Europe or fly through an airport, I can’t help but notice the plethora of young women in small groups giddily dancing around an unfolded map with hiking backpacks, black leggings, and sneakers.  They’ve got their bandanas on, their Fodor guides out, and they’re ready to “rough it”.  But why?

No, dear lord, please…don’t tell me I’m part of a trend.  I didn’t ask for this!

Now that the world is at our fingertips and women have access to more generous means (thanks to the push for higher education and the encouragement to abandon home-making for a life of independence), so so so many young women are out there traveling.  It’s like an epidemic.  It seems like I always see them, hear about them, or even witness them among my friends.  (I mean, men too, but not my point.)

What is it that they’ve lost about themselves that they think they’re going to find?  Am I really just the same as them?

I honestly don’t have an answer.  But while they’re so busy trying to find out who they will be, I can’t help but see who they would have been and wonder the same for myself.

At 23, where would I have been two generations ago?
A housewife, surely.  World War 2.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Shopping.

It sounds dismal, but part of me wonders if I would have preferred it.

Relaxed, taken care of, at ease, important, with a place in this world.
These days, I don’t know where I belong.
These days, there are high expectations put on me.
These days, I still can’t walk into my job or my hockey game like a woman.
Because I’m still at the disadvantage.
I still have to work a little harder to just pass, because, well, men.
But that’s okay.
Look how far the world has come already.

But is there an intrinsic spark in me that would have caused me to rebel?  Would I have become a journalist like Skeeter in The Help and taken life into my own hands?  Chosen against a husband and instead fought for human rights?

I want to say yes, yes that would have been me.
But I’m not so sure it would have been.

Sure, now I feel like a rebel, going against the grain, going alone, fighting for native rights.
But that’s so trendy now.
Is that really that awesome of me?  Or am I just mundane??

It’s like when the whole world tries so hard to be “different” that “different” becomes “normal”.

But I’m not out to fight being normal,…or am I?

Questions even I can’t answer for myself.
But let’s say I am out there to be different.
And it’s 1940.
What would I have done?  Joined the Army?  Fought in WWII as a “soldier”?  Refused to marry, gone to school, practiced science?  Eventually walked on the moon?

Geez… Life is hard to understand sometimes.

Not only do I not have any idea who I am, but I’m unsure of who I will be and also confused by who I might have been.

Well, one thing’s for sure…I’m about to board a plane for Belgium.  And I know who I USED to be: a girl who could never board a plane by herself to Belgium.  And here I am, student card in hand, an ex-resident of southern France, ready to face the world with a loose itinerary and no reservations.

Because I’m kind of over asking what ifs.

Perspective

perspective

I’m in Europe.  I came here after two weeks in India and I’m not going back to the US until mid-August.  I was lucky enough to find the job I wanted in a company that was willing to wait for me to start after my return this summer.  I’ve been able to see so many incredible things, thanks to the inside resources I have in each country I’ve gone to so far.  For example, in India I had several professors who are well-known in their country and who got us VIP entrances into temples where we were blessed by holy water and, in Slovakia, I had a friend whose wife’s aunt knows the wife to a long-lost cousin of mine who managed to answer age-old questions about my family history.  What are the chances that such great things could happen?  My summer is full of amazing things and I should be happy.  But I’m not.

I’ve felt alarmingly depressed.  Why?  Well I can’t help thinking about home.  No, I’m not homesick.  I’m just stressed about the people at home, back in the States.  I’m stressed about guys, about a guy who I thought was something special and who is now not replying to any message I send, about guys who don’t matter but whom I wonder about anyway, etc.  Yada yada yada… all this stupid stuff that you would hear from a rambling teenager.  Stupid just in its own essence, but here, comparing it to where I am and what should matter to me… it’s ESPECIALLY stupid.

And that’s why I decided to write a little quip about perspective.  Although I might think a relationship or an individual is crucial to my life right now, the truth is it’s trivial.  It’s especially trivial if someone doesn’t have the decency to acknowledge me.  And maybe I’m nothing special, but I’m nothing ordinary either.  So have fun missing out.  The whole thing is even more trivial considering I’m in Europe, I’m traveling the world, I’m doing what so many people my age or older wish they were doing.  I don’t need anyone’s sympathy or lack of attention.  My problems might seem big on a local scale, but step back and it’s nothing compared to the world and everything there is to see and do in it.

I have guys asking to Skype me while I’m away, guys messaging me and reading my blogs to keep in touch as I travel, guys planning to meet me in various cities along my way.  I have friends who have kept in touch for years and who have never changed.  It’s people like these who matter, not the ones who flicker and fade.  So, while I’m sitting here watching a movie that is set in his city, all I have to do is PITY that city for having him and his ignorance and PRAISE mine for showing me that the world is my oyster.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important; I’ll always preach that here.

International Independence… and the One Great Thing about Taxes and American Sports

As Americans, our sovereignty is at stake.  We have come to interpret “freedom” as meaning “inherited right to anything and everything I want”.  One common train of thought seems to be: “If they have it, then I want it too because you can’t tell me I’m not entitled to it.”

Between these mindsets and our constant need to push each other down and come out on top, we are ruthlessly taking advantage of cheap foreign labor and superfluous fine imports.  We fail to recall the novelty in our scant American-made products, thereby refusing to invest in and support the services of our own brothers.  Meanwhile, we continue to race our imports around the world and across our draught-impacted expanses, devouring energy sources we don’t have and undermining our own global independence.

America might be balanced on its high-horse now, but one little upset and what’s going to keep it standing on its own two feet?  What has become of our fighting spirit, of our national pride?  Have we forgotten the centuries of struggle that granted us these now abused freedoms?  Will it take an outside threat on our freedom to remind us that, despite its being a misnomer, freedom doesn’t come for free?

According to Economy in Crisis, the purchase of consumer goods in the US constitutes 70% of its economic growth.  That same 70% translates to 30% of global spending.  Yes, that means 5% of the world population (the US) contributes to 21% of the global spending through our consumer good purchases alone!  Here is a breakdown from Tax Foundation (http://www.mymoneyblog.com/the-average-americans-spending-breakdown.html) of American major spending from 2006:

32% of our spending goes to taxes.  These taxes, federal or not, contribute to the expenses of running our country, like paying for our infrastructure, our school systems, and our financial programs.  Feel confident in at least knowing that 1/3 of your expenses are going directly towards keeping the dialysis machine of the US running.  Then there is your 14% for health and medical care, which is applied to you, your benefactors, and the companies that make your insurance possible.  So that’s not too bad.

How about that transportation?  You’re spending an average of 8% of your income going places.  In the old days, those expenses came down to what it cost to buy a horse, to feed that horse, and to feed the people who took care of the horse and maybe even built that wagon for you.  Nowadays, we are importing foreign-assembled cars or cars with foreign parts, supporting foreign engineering and cheap labor, then burning fuels we dragged across the polluted open seas.  Our infrastructure might have been paid for by the government with our taxes, but what about the American companies contracted to complete the job?  Are all of those steel piles made of American steel?  What about that bulldozer?  Is it American-made?  The parts?  The fuel to run it?  Hmm.

That is exactly how to view the 17% of your income which goes to housing: importing trees and metals to complete the task of building new homes, importing fuels to run appliances, oh – and buying foreign appliances,… 4% on clothing and accessories which are most likely made in Bangladesh or some other country that you couldn’t even find on a map if you were asked, but whose residents are forced to accept meager wages because that’s what it takes to keep up the exporting demands in those poor countries, the exporting demands that you support by purchasing these “slave labor” items.

Then there is the 8% for food.  But we don’t exactly maintain our own rice paddies in the US.  We do, however, have extensive coastlines and yet our seafood imports are outrageous.  In fact, here is one breakdown from the FDA:

It’s funny, they always tell us how the three things needed for survival are Water, Food, and Shelter.  Water, we’ve got plenty of it.  That probably goes in to the smallest fraction of housing spending, less than 1% or the 17% that is dedicated to Shelter as a whole.  So, in other words… our Three Things Needed to Survive comprise of 25% of our total spending.  (I wonder, did they factor in beer?)

That leaves us with 11% for “All Other Days”… What is that, vacation?  Savings?  (I’ll admit, that one is a bit ambiguous, but I didn’t make this chart.)  And, finally, my last point: 6% for recreation.  Things you do for fun.  Hobbies and activities.  Even if your karate teacher came from Korea, he is now American.  One great thing about this category is it most likely consists of an American or mostly-American pastime.  American films seen at theatres with American workers, American amusement parks and nature reservations run by more Americans (and even government positions),… and how about sports?  Truly American sports would be basketball, baseball, and football.  I mean, in terms of modern times, how American can you get?  Amen to that 8%.

So the next time you feel like being American and protecting our global independence and overall sovereignty, go to a baseball game, grab yourself a Yuengling, and take solace in the fact that UnderArmor is made in the USA (although your fan shirt may not be).

An interesting article about non-American US Olympic uniforms: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-capitol-hill-joins-criticism-of-made-in-china-us-olympic-uniforms-20120712,0,1586224.story