i'm sitting in my bedroom in justiniskes. i'm cross legged on my hollow children's mattress, surrounded by the infamous cat pirate wallpaper, the words on the cabinet above my door still encouraging me: "wish it. dream it..... do it." precisely 5 ellipses. my phone and i are singing budapest together, a song i first heard in a little restaurant in italy, titled after my homeland, i place i was just about two weeks ago.
i'm watching a china video. i'm watching what was once my present, me surrounded by my sweet sweet students, fielding kisses and i love yous. a shot of phillip's hands comes up, when he had me draw him and i on each of his palms the day before i left. tears sting the corners of my eyes when i remember saying goodbye to him on the steps outside of the cafeteria and how he kept turning to look at me as he walked away. then i giggle a bit when i remember how tear-drenched we all were, red faced, eating kfc on the bus to the airport in our panda hats. despite it all, i'm watching myself at my best. the happiest, purest, most confident self i've ever been.
i read the alchemist when i first got here to lithuania and this quote runs through my mind often. it keeps me grateful and amazed:
he still had some doubts about the decision, but was able to understand one thing: making a decision was only the beginning of things. when someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.
everything i've done since china happened because of china. sometimes i'm amazed that i even decided to go in the first place, but i suppose my streaks of spontaneity and courage have always been active. i remember when i made my final decision, behind the steering wheel of my little blue acura on a drive home. i was at a stoplight in front of mack's house with my basket full of laundry in the passenger seat and i said out loud, that's it, i'm going, it's yes. and i can't even believe what's happened since then.
going to china opened me up. i had all these qualities, all these capabilities before i went, but it wasn't until i made that decision that i started to really become myself. all this restless bravery, all this boundless love, all this self-awarded freedom unwound in china. that decision took me to buddhist temples high above clouds, to the ancient stones of the great wall, to the dumpling filled kitchens of families i now love. it brought reed running to me down the hall when i returned to school from beijing, when i first felt that pang of calling, a passion for education and for children. it brought the independence and sense of adventure that motivated me to create meaning wherever i was, which in turn made up my mind about my career path, which pushed me along to things like watching brian kershisnik paint a new canvas which i had hung on the gallery wall, to internship coordinators who told me i was actually really good at this, and recommended me to every museum in washington dc. that decision brought me to work the first day in the united states national archives, it helped me climb out the window of the museum's learning center to stand in that forest of neoclassical columns and feel like i was in the center of the world. and, in turn, it brought me here. to this complicated, nuanced country that has taught me so much about how blurry lines can be when it comes to history and politics. it brought me to this european dream where my days are filled with things like praying in pink cathedrals and waking up in renaissance abbeys and kissing austrian boys in front of baroque fountains. in this country i have gained more confidence and gratitude for my body, a new awe for sunsets, and four dear friends to laugh around the tiny kitchen table with at night.
but it's not really those fluffy things that are significant about my experience here. what i've learned through it all is the level of capability i have and how crucial action is. how intentional you have to be about creating an authentic life and gathering meaningful experiences. the current of my decision to go to china certainly led me to all the wonderful experiences i just listed, but those things didn't happen to me. i had to seek them. i had to take them. my mother calls me lucky and my father calls me spoiled, but i adamantly insist that i am neither. what i am is ambitious and very, very blessed. opportunity doesn't fall into my lap and finances don't rain into my pockets. the reason i have done all of this is first, because i wanted to, and second, because i allowed myself what i wanted. and once something becomes a great enough priority, there is very little that can stop you from achieving it. i didn't always know what i wanted, and i still don't know what my life will look like in the next few years, but it all starts with a decision. an action. the bravery to make a change.
i sit here smiling to myself. big. because so many of my dreams aren't dreams anymore.