Tag Archives: Happiness

Solidarity, Sister

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Today, I went to one of the best panel I’ve ever attended (and definitely better than any I’ve planned/hosted/moderated). And, I have been to many panels in my day. This particular event was entitled White House Women in Foreign Policy, a part of the White House’s celebration of Women’s History month. Aside from the yearbook’s worth of photos I took of the East Wing, the even itself was just spectacular.

What about this event was so spectacular? Was it an audience of predominantly women listening to some of the most powerful women in foreign affairs? Was it all the cute professional clothes and shoes I now feel inspired (compelled) to go out and buy?

These were all wonderful accidents of the amazing substance. Hearing four accomplished women talking about their mid-20s was like having them read my mind. I ran into a friend from grad school in line for security and we ended up sitting next to each other. We kept glancing at each other with looks that said, this is down right creepy–it’s like they’re reading our minds.

These well-educated, poised women were up here talking about the fear and uncertainty of their 20s and onward–of their careers, of their families, of their first boss, and of their first jobs. What it’s like to be a minority in the field as a woman. They discussed work-life balance and whether or not it was realistic to “have it all.” Everything that has been on my mind–working abroad, working in government, working outside of government, careers, relationships, plans for a family, all of that were accounted for in the wonderful accounts these women gave of the ups and downs of their lives.

To say the least, it was encouraging. These women worried and planned. They got degrees and went through job searches. They had jobs and bosses they didn’t like. They got opportunities that changed their plans and careers. They sought out mentors. They worked their butts off. They failed. And they succeeded.

There is something immensely encouraging about knowing you’re not alone. And there is something immensely inspiring about knowing these women have trodden the path before me–that many of them blazed the trail. I find that there are few things more valuable in life than being an attentive listener to those that have walked before you and those that walk with you. There is a comfort in knowing that even if we don’t always know the answer, we’re not alone.

White House Women in Foreign Policy Panel

Linda Etim-Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa, USAID; Caitlin Hayden-Spokesperson, National Security Council, White House; Maria Otero-Under Secretary, Dept of State; Michele Flournoy-Under Secretary, Dept of Defense

Come Sail Away…

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I’m sailing away,
Set an open course for the virgin sea,
‘Cause I’ve got to be free,
Free to face the life that’s ahead of me,
On board, I’m the captain, so climb aboard,
We’ll search for tomorrow on every shore,
And I’ll try, Oh Lord I’ll try, to carry on

I’ve been singing Styx since a very young age. There was not a family road trip that didn’t involve rocking out to Styx (along with a few other favorites…The Night Chicago Died–who doesn’t love a song about gang warfare? And of course, a family favorite, Afternoon Delight…yeah, don’t ask). In fact, I remember a bus ride at camp singing Styx with one of my first crushes. Styx. That is true love. (I may have had better taste in men as a twelve year old…the jury is still out).

And this. This is the song that comes to me this weekend in the midst of a silent retreat. Have you ever spent 48+ hours not talking? I highly recommend it, especially in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Advice from friends, family, and mentors is great–often essential. But sometimes you have to quiet all the voices and listen to what it is that you want and what you need. Plus, I’m all about inner peace and tranquility; living life in a rather large metropolis focused on success and achievement sometimes requires that you take a step back to reestablish the inner calm among the chaos and the busy.

So here I am: thesis-ing, job searching, working, homework-ing (yes, I invent school related verbs), blogging, and volunteering. Well-rested, I attempt to attack my thesis and my upcoming projects with a more sane (less anxious) mind and a firmer sense of direction. I have come to realize in my silence that what I am really seeking is not just the next adventure or the answer to the inevitable “What am I going to do when I grow up?”, but joy. The joy of travel. The joy of family and friends. The joy of my faith, of new experiences, of exploring new hobbies, of celebrating life.

And to my future, I say…

On board, I’m the captain, so climb aboard!

My Culture

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A friend of mine told me about a book that talks about the difficulties women have dating because they are ambitious and career-oriented, but want to have a family and be stay-at-home moms. That apparently men who are supportive of career-driven women may not see the value in a stay-at-home parent or that men looking for a wife who would value a stay-at-home parent may not know that about his ambitious female friends.  (DISCLAIMER: I haven’t read the book, I was just told about it. So this is my interpretation of what I heard. I also think she said it was specific to DC, or urban areas. Regardless…)

I can’t say this worry had ever occurred to me personally. Certainly, I have been in real experiences in which that conversation is necessary. I’ll out myself as an ambitious woman who would love to eventually have a family and be able to stay at home (I say stay-at-home loosely, I’ll probably be “on the road.” 🙂 ) But, it has never been a difficulty in finding someone to date. And let’s be honest, there are a lot of necessary conversations in any relationship. (Like my addiction to international travel…my bank account and I already go back and forth on that. I can’t imagine my future spouse and I won’t have to have that conversation. Or better yet, we should just have the same addiction to adventure. Hey, girl can dream!**)

This post drifts from away from a strictly “travel” blog here and shifts in to one about culture and values. As I was contemplating the existence of this book, I didn’t quite get it. But it did lead me to think more deeply about why staying at home or having a more flexible job as a parent would be important to me. I came up with this: my desire to create a culture unique to my future family. I love traditions, holidays, and rituals. These are what make life so rich. They are the very reason I yearn to travel—to see how others celebrate the joys in everyday life and in the monumental occasions (life, death, birth, marriage, coming of age…). Life is beautiful and it is the celebration of the joys and how we handle sorrows that makes one ordinary moment different from the next.

This thought led me to something else. I have these beautiful friends that aspire to own a farm. They have an amazing blog where they chronicle their made-from-scratch recipes and other craftsmanship projects. I see them value the hard work and the virtues that come with those efforts and I admire them greatly. They take their values and live them. Admittedly I have wondered to myself, if I really wanted to create a culture as I said above, would I be making lye soap or beeswax candles? After all, I like the values they hold that lead them to do this. But let’s be honest…I love projects, but I don’t ever see myself making detergent from scratch more than once for the novelty of it.

Part of the reason my friends’ blog has sparked so much thought was a debate in my Global Ethics class about particularism versus universalism in tackling poverty—that is are we more effective in our efforts to help our own and do it well or are we more effective in helping the most objectively impoverished though they may be in far corners of the world or isn’t the most effective use of resources? While most of my fellow master’s students argued in favor of universalism, I found myself defending a greater responsibility to our own children and our immediate neighbors. (How did I end up in an international affairs program instead of social work, if this is the case? I may never know.) In this same vein, I found myself inspired to volunteer and support local NGOs, dedicated to ending hunger and homelessness locally, upon my return from India.

If I truly feel particularistic—in that I can most effectively help the world by the children I may raise or serving those in my own little corner of the world—would I not be doing something radical like my friends’ in saving for a farm (or whatever it may be that you value) to create that particular culture that fosters those values?

But I have come to a conclusion. (Besides the fact that I think too much about things that haven’t happened yet…) It is through my love of people and exploration of culture—learning what and how people attribute meaning and significance to in life—that leads me to this frame of mind, to my desire to build a domestic culture. I know traveling has taught me so much—it’s pushed me to my limits and beyond on more than one occasion, but it’s also stretched me and forced me to grow. (In retrospect, I think relationships, families, and living together is similar–pushes your limits, but ideally challenges you to improve).

If I have values, I want to live by them…otherwise, they are no better than a presidential campaign—all rhetoric and no substance. It has just occurred to me that some of my specific values are learning, exploring, and finding meaning in it all. Maybe international travel is my farm–the a part of the way I live out my values…and maybe it doesn’t have to be particular OR universal.

***Speaking of dreamy: For anyone who saw The Bachelor finale this week, I wouldn’t mind riding off into the Thai sunset on an elephant either.

And here I’m facing adventure…

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What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what’s the matter with me?

I’ve always longed for adventure
To do the things I’ve never dared
And here I’m facing adventure
Then why am I so scared

 

Without fail, Rodgers and Hammerstein have lyrics to fit every situation. (Including, “I’m just a girl who cain’t say no, I’m in a terrible fix!”…but that is another musical for another blog post!) This pretty much sums up my life at the present moment.

And what should I be doing at the present moment? I should be writing my master’s thesis at this very moment…the moment during “snowquestration”, with absolutely no snow on the ground but a day off from work. Sometimes, I do love the federal government. In fact, it’s well timed. I almost took a vacation day this week to dedicate extra time to my thesis. Instead I’ve spent the day attempting to work from home, looking at job openings, doing laundry, and getting my kitchen and bathroom spotless. …Well, at least I have clean clothes for tomorrow. And two paragraphs added to chapter two of my thesis.

I’ve also been reading blogs almost obsessively. Maybe I should’ve given THAT up for lent (lord knows my Facebook fast failed by week two). But somehow I can’t get enough. I’ve been yearning to write on this blog for months, but didn’t have something set to post about. Usually a coherent topic just comes to me and so a new post is birthed. I wanted to write, but I couldn’t for the life of me think of something that meshed what I wanted to write about and what my audience would want to read. If no one reads this, I might as well start a journal. I don’t need my private thoughts shared on the inter-webs–I would like to have something worth sharing.

But this Wanderlust Traveler is currently wondering, wandering and LOST. JRR Tolkien has a quote which I love (and is currently on a luggage tag attached to my suitcase), “Not all who wander are lost.” Well…such is the blessing and curse of so many possibilities come May.

 

“I didn’t always know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the kind of woman I wanted to be.”

Diane Von Furstenberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There are less ants on the toilet and that makes me happy.”

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I brought a notebook with me to write and reflect about my trip. My mother is such a talented journal-er that often when we talk and I am away her first question is, “Are you writing this down? Are you keeping a journal?”

Well unfortunately, between my blog and my research report, I can’t say I have that much energy to write more. Plus, as much as I love to read the journal my mother kept about me growing up, I hate rereading my old journal entries. I probably have 2 or 3 entries in 20 journals that span my nearly quarter of a century. The rest of the pages are blank.

My intentions are good. A travel journal. A prayer journal. A self-improvement journal. An inspiring quotes and poems journal. An overdramatic I’m 13 years old journal. A To-Do list journal (now that one was just depressing). A things I could do with my future journal…actually come to think of it, most of them fall in that category—even my first journal entry as a newly literate 2nd grader.

But let’s be honest. I’m not my mother and I don’t have her talent for keeping a journal. I’d like to think I got some of her talent for writing. I brought a journal with me on this adventure. I don’t think I can make a packing list without one. All of the pages sit next to my bed, neatly bound and blank. And waiting. Waiting for me to animate them.

But today, I thought of a new journal. I had a realization today as I was going to the bathroom (TMI?). There are less ants on the toilet today than yesterday, I thought when I turned on the light, and that put me in a better mood. Well, THIS ought to be an interesting journal, you’re thinking…where is this going?

My friend wrote an email to her mom that went something like this: “How am I? Well, our hot plate doesn’t work all of the time, the power goes out several times a day, our refrigerator is broken, we don’t really have real mattresses-more like mats, our air conditioner unit leaks so we have buckets under it. There are ants (and now flea-like creatures) in our bathroom and kitchen and food. We’re pretty much out of food because the monsoon has flooded the streets the last 3 days on the way home from work. But we’re doing okay.”

She read the litany to me and we agreed that all of that was true. We’re not whining about it, this is how things are. Do we get tired of it? Sometimes. Are we happy here? Absolutely. In fact, we laugh about things every day—usually caused by something in that litany. We’re doing just fine. More than anything, it’s just different. And that’s alright because we didn’t come here to acquire old experiences.

As we decided earlier in this experience, “What we’ve learned this summer is that attitude is everything.” It is very true and I am so thankful that we are both upbeat and adventurous. I could go into the “Well at least we have electricity”, “at least we have air-conditioning” mode, which is all true. But that’s not where I’m going with this.

I think after all of this that my journal is going to be one of reminders. That when I buy my first house or any house, I don’t need to have the best master bathroom to be happy. Or if I lose something material and can’t afford to replace, it’ll be okay. That I can in fact be happy and enjoy where I am and that moment. Ultimately, aside from being able to meet my basic needs, my circumstances are not that important. It won’t be anything monumental. Especially to anyone else.

The first entry? “There are less ants on the toilet and that makes me happy.”

Note: First, as with most of my posts, I wrote this entry last week and I’m just now posting it. I have one week left in this location and it has been a blast! My next entry will be photos from sites around Bhubaneswar–today we went to the Tribal Museum and tomorrow we’re going to a temple and Puri (a beach).