1) Take Risks.
Say “Yes” and jump. Leaving America with only an over-packed rucksack and a little money, then heading to a country I had never been to was a difficult first step on this journey. But I did it, and I am glad I did. I was told that my decision was “stupid” and that I was “unprepared”. To be honest, we all do things that someone else considers stupid. As far as unprepared… Okay, I might not have had a safety net but I didn’t feel as though one was necessary. Which was an entirely new feeling unto itself. I have ALWAYS needed something to fall back on and I have ALWAYS had something to fall back on. You know what that did for me? It made me lazy. It made me take things for granted. It showed me that I could do anything I wanted to and I would be safe from everything, including myself. It was nice to have but living in a bubble of safety isn’t really living. Every choice I now make has an effect and I have to think about what I do because I am responsible for myself. Even though others care about me, they are not responsible for me. We need to take care of ourselves because that is truly the only assurance we have that we will be “okay”. It’s a nice thought that others will be there for you when you need it, but that is not a guarantee. Which brings me to the next thing I have learned.
2) People are inherently good.
You don’t see that very often, living in a country where most people are obsessed with themselves instead of noticing others, but it’s still there. The people I have met in this past year have turned my world upside down. I have been shown kindness from strangers, been hugged by strangers, been given help from strangers, and been shown new levels of faith and trust from strangers. There were still a sprinkling of jerks in the mix, and there always will be, but the good greatly outweigh the bad. I once lived in fear of other human beings. I was beyond socially anxious – I was disabled when it came to being around others. Thanks to this experience, that is all in the past. I still am not a fan of human beings, but I am learning to like them a bit more and not be so closed-off towards them.
3) Stop. Breathe. Focus. Smile. Try again.
Those five steps will help you in almost any situation. I tend to be a reactive person, or I was until this trip. Heck, I still am a bit, but I try to be proactive. When that fails, I have to stop what I am doing, stop reacting, and breathe. Silence your words, close your eyes and take a deep breath in. Release it and concentrate on what is going on. Focus on a positive resolution to the problem; you will find one. Smile and try again. This seems so easy, and it is. I should’ve learned this a while ago but we learn what we need to at the right time, when it applies to our personal life lessons.
4) Get back to nature.
The city is nice and it has it’s conveniences, but it gets old fast. Nature is beautiful and it speaks to the soul. If you want to get to know yourself and those around you, get away from everything that distracts you – the internet, the phone, the television. Touch the trees, feel the leaves, walk upon the earth, kiss the wind, dance under the stars, sing with the birds. Nature is there for you. It helps you understand and it shows you what you need to see. Most of all, it stirs something inside of you. Well, it should anyways. If it doesn’t, you just need to spend a little longer in it’s grace. The path between start to finish is oftentimes strange, yet familiar; take that familiarity and that strangeness and look deeper into the void until you see something you can no longer question- until there is no doubt about who you are and where you are going.
5) Love with a backbone.
Love yourself, love your friends, love your enemies. You don’t have to like what someone does, and you don’t have to tolerate their choices, but you should try to love them because they are a human being – just – like – YOU. You can be kind and firm. You can love with a backbone. I will love you, but that does not mean I will enable you. Sometimes we associate love with making someone happy but that isn’t love, that is fear. Don’t be afraid to speak the words your heart shies away from. We are all connected and the sooner we realize that truth, the better we will all be.