Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Journey is [Still] the Destination, or "And Here We Go" Again

The passing of this week marks the passing of the 6-month sign post here in Taiwan. This is a big one for me, as it marks the half way point of my overseas journey (if everything goes according to plan, but I've learned to not put much stock in "plans". More on learning in a moment).

I commemorated this evening by spending time browsing through all my previous entries on this blog. It was fun to see where I'd come from. Electronic-pages of a well-loved journal, the posts brought back memories of when the look and feel and smell of this place was new. Earlier, I passed by the cafe where I ate my first breakfast in Taiwan, and I was instantaneously transposed to that bright September morn when the streets and faces were so foreign - and not familiar as they've become.

It's different now. Though I dare not call it home, this place is comfortable. Familiar. It struck me that I'll find it odd not to see street signs full of over-sized Chinese Characters when I return back to the States.

One of my Taiwanese family members commented to me today over our lunch of rice, rice soup, seaweed, and some sauteed veggies. She said "Before, everyone asked you 'Are you adjusting alright? What do you think of Taiwan so far?' But now, they will start asking you, 'Are you ready to go home? What will you do when you get back to the States?'"

She's right. That has started to happen. And you know what? I am ready to go home. But I'm prepared to stay, too. I committed to myself one year, and I think there's some amount of honor sticking with that. I hope there is.

Some things still feel the same here. I still feel perpetually on display (though, my suspicion was right, I am growing tired of it). And being on the road still scares me witless.

But things are changing, too. For the first time since I've been here, people are telling me I'm losing weight (See #s 4 and 5). More than one person even! Today, a different member of my Taiwanese family told me "You are very handsome! Before, no. Too," (her hands made a wide spread motion in front of her cheeks) "too fat. But now [*thumbs up*] good." I haven't lost more than 2 kilos, but it hasn't been on accident.

It may have taken me 5 months, but my notion to form conscious habits began to take off. In the past month, it's been as though a dam has broken in my life. I'm purposeful about how I live and think. Long gone is that $9 Beverly Hills Light-up Pen, but the lesson I learned even then has remained (you better believe I never leave the house with out a pen). Finally, I'm learning to remember the little things. And I think I was right: tending to the little things makes the "big problems" of life seem a bit more manageable.

I've learned a lot here. A lot about myself, and those around me. A lot about my culture, and this new one that is less and less foreign to me by the day.

I've met people that have inspire me towards greatness, and people that have exemplified what I don't hope to become.

I've met some great friends,
and have already had to say goodbye to a few.

Throughout this whole journey,
I've been shocked to find who goes the extra mile to show they miss me - and who doesn't...

It's been surprising, also, finding who I myself miss, and what I don't miss much at all.

Life has a way of whipping around a bend when you least expect it to. I've made and strengthened some great friendships while I've been abroad. But I've lost a great deal as well.

I have 6 months to go. And all of this has happened only in the first half of the trip. I know that I will have plenty more lessons, and losses, and strange foods to try (think: Squid-on-a-Stick), multi-cultural haircuts, and Adventures in the Back of the Bus.

I am sure that my dedication to the "little things" will bring even further depth to the next leg of my journey; be it physical, mental, spiritual, relational or functional.

I have learned one thing here in Taiwan, and that's the value of Community. Their whole lives are structured around it. I now see the fallacy of our grandiouse idea of American Independence. Sure, it has it's strengths, too. But we need people. "No man is an island."

In reference to life as a jazz piece, I once wrote:

The more I step forward in my life, the more I realize that intimacy is essential to our existence. Sure, there's tension when dealing with people. Sometimes that solo is a little too loud, or a little too long-winded. And sometimes trading fours seems like trading punches. But without people, what do we have?
[Life] isn't a song that's sung alone.

I also noted, "Life is hard to put down on paper."
But this blog has been my attempt to do just that. It's also been a key to my survival here: a link back home; a portal of communication; a sacred space to hash out my thoughts, muses, frustrations, and perturbations. It's even led me to finding ways to live beyond myself - and remind me to do so when I forget. I have found an amazing community here, and I'm thankful for each of you. Our interactions really have helped me through dark days.

Nonetheless, I catch myself being lonely here. Or maybe just lonely in general. I haven't fostered many great friendships here in Taiwan (and the one's I have fostered up and move to places like Australia...). I fight a feeling of loneliness fairly often here. But I am in Taiwan for reasons greater than finding people to be with on a daily basis. I find ways to remind myself of that.

One such reminder came when my sister and I visited the local art museum. These photos are of the entrance exhibit.

My initial reaction was "Yeah, that's what you think!" But the more I allowed myself to dwell on the words, the more it became true. The point of this season isn't loneliness. And though Community is essential, it's the times when we're confined to Solitude that opens our eyes and ears to what we normally have within our grasp. In these moments, art comes alive like we'd never known and we find life in the most unexpected of places.

The Journey is the Destination. This phrase that I've chosen to live by for the past 6 months (if not the past 3 years) has taken on new depths in recent times. I have found the worth in dedicating myself to the moment. Living life to the fullest. Tending to the "little things" and watching the "big problems" manage themselves. My life isn't some distant event in the future. It's the very experiences that are happening right now. It's my staying up til 3am to blog, and my getting up at 6am to study. The adventuresome and the mundane. And the life that springs up everywhere in between.

I've only been in Taiwan 6 months. That's only half the amount of time I've planned on being here. I am stepping into the last stretch of my expat-adventure with a refined vision and a passion for living life the best I can. I know I will fill these electronic-pages with more loved memories, more muses, more head-scratching and tears to shed. Each tear dropped, smile cracked and letter typed is another day lived in this Journey.

For those of you who have made it with me this far - and to the ones I've picked up along the way - thank you for joining me. It's been a treasure to have you along. I am honored you have chosen to join me, and I hope you'll allow me to do the same with you and your story.

I find it only fitting to end the same way I ended my first entry after arriving in Taiwan:
This is my journey, and I am honored that you're the least bit interested in joining me. I thank you, maybe in advance, for reading. My humblest hope is that it in some way may encourage you in your journey.

Here's to feeling life is more than a Destination.

Here's to finding the most out of the Little.

Here's to knowing this journey is meant to be spent with Fellow Journeyers.

And Here We Go...


the girl in stiletto said...

glad to hear how such an experience can affect your life & your perception towards life that way. i hope for the next 6 months you will get to learn more & become a greater person that you are now :)

btw, YOU HAVE GOT TO TRY THE SQUID ON STICK. I promise it's the best delicacy in this entire world - it got to be the same version that we have back in malaysia. oh how much i miss home food :(

RazzberryMomma said...

Beautiful post! Been waiting for you to jump back in... you never disappoint! Miss you tons sweetheart.

Love you

Lori Bevilacqua said...

I enjoy reading your blog! Thank you for 3 am blog posts to let us see in to your heart and your journey.
We LOVE you very much
Dante, Lori, JoJo, Malory and Dante

floreta said...

awww, Chase, this is such a sweet entry! I love it!

- I have eaten squid-on-a-stick!

- That art exhibit sign sounds amazing! It's true that being alone does not have to mean being lonely. I may use that quote/post as inspiration on my blog if you don't mind. But not sure when.. I have sooo many entries running around in my head.

- You've learned a lot, my friend.. Very much respect your journey.

Colin Biggers said...

chase.... i am praying for you! reading your blogs is SOOO cool! miss you brotha! come back to so-cal soon! we will go shopping or something!!

Don said...

As a teen I heard my grandfathers voice on a tape recording reading some poems he had written, and some sayings he had found helpful. One was, "Happiness is not a destination, but a way of travel." Similar to your "mantra," it has helped me along the journey as well.

Your mid-way vista/reflection was a fun read. That's why I've joined the small band of those who have joined up with you on your trek through time in Taiwan.

"His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness." Good morning: part 2.

insomniaclolita said...

oh you're right. This post surely worth it. Although then I sleep with the computer on lol Such a wonderful experience, Chase. You will surely be missed that's for sure, just as much as you'll miss the place. Enjoy everything that will come your way :D

sarahlynn said...

Chase, I have always respected you - the person of you and the way that you think and process. I think it's something special.

Thank you for showing us your heart and bringing us along your journey with you.

Praying for you.

Love, Sarah B.

Anonymous said...

Great post, nice recap, nice lessons learned! Way to contemplate them too :)

You mentioned that people are not islands (or something to that extent). Have you seen this Youtube video about that? I love it:

Enjoy! Both the video and the rest of your time in Taiwan!

Gavin said...

Ahh squid on a stick.... memories.

Its obviously a great experience, keep on enjoying it and keeping us posted on you enjoying it. Its great to read of a different world, from a different angle.

sarahlynn said...

Chase your fear is a valid one, I visited Oregon, and I fell in love and now I live here! You should visit though! Bend is even more beautiful than most of Oregon because it has more sunshine than anywhere else.

I can't imagine how it must be to make real friendships in a foreign country. It looks you are learning a lot from it though. And certainly having some great adventures! Have a couple for me, cause I am jealous!


David Hughes said...

awesome dude. love this. keep on posting!!!

Young Traveler said...

Still waters run deep.

Always a joy to read your posts and be a part of your journey, friend.

Thanks for allowing me to be a small part of it.

SuzANNE said...

Great post. Six months in a foreign country is a milestone, best of luck wherever your journey may lead you. When I used to study French, I would think in French.

Glad you like the specs, they're pretty bold, AND a back up pair. You're good. My original pair is smaller and you guessed it, more rectangular in a tortoise shell print.

Lynzi Andre said...

I miss you..

Samantha said...

Lend me some of your courage and independence, please.

Attaining Me said...

I love this post so much, I don't even know where to start.

Chase said...

@Stiletto, Floreta, and (of course) Gavin: Ya'll know I love me some Squid on a Stick. Did I post the most recent pic of me eating it yet? Remind me to do so.

@RazzberryMomma: It's always such an encouragement to see you on here, Cuz! :) Love you too

@Lori: I'll try to keep that in mind the next time I choose blog over sleep. It helps some, but the day after I wrote this was brutal. Give your family a hug for me.

@Colin: You're the man.

@Don: Great insight... but that's pretty frequent coming from you. I always enjoy your "Journey's" Words of Wisdom. Thanks.

@Sarah: I want to visit! I don't know why, but I've had an itch to see Portland for months. Floreta (a few comments up) is also in Bend! She's great, I love her blog. Keep writing about your new journey, Sarah! :)

@Renee: Love LOVE that video. My next post will be about it, actually.

@Sam: Miss Seattle.. you'll do fine.

Love you all!

yazz said...

"Throughout this whole journey, I've been shocked to find who goes the extra mile to show they miss me - and who doesn't...

It's been surprising, also, finding who I myself miss, and what I don't miss much at all."

i shocked you! and you miss me! you don't even have to say it!

Geeta said...

Chase, that was positively wonderful. & funny thing is, it doesn't surprise me in the least that I found myself nodding and agreeing to many of the things you said.

I feel the need to apologize for being missing for so long! You seem to have a better grasp on being busy and still finding the time to post. I just get caught up in everything and then neglect to! So much is happening here, more then I could possibly post, but I'm going to try my hardest to actually get on here and update!

I feel like we should grab a cup of coffee and share stories! Good to hear from you.

Speak (read?) soon! =]


Anonymous said...

hey Chase,
I know we've lost touch in the past month or two but you have been inmy thoughts. Jenny is allways updating me on how things are going for you overseas and I'm glad to know that you're doing well and that even though things aren't allways perfect for're coping and moving along just like you have always done. I want you to know and never forget that you have loads of friends that you can turn to in those times of loneliness. I can't beleive it's already been 6 months since you left. Wow! Can't wait till you come back to the states! Enjoy the rest of your journey my friend. You have grown so much and become an even better person that the guy I knew 6 months ago or even wen we met over a year ago. Miss you bro!

I'm off to dig up your e-mail address from my address book.
Talk soon


Rachel said...

Congratulations on making it halfway, and I hope you will share the rest of your journey with us. And that you continue to learn extraordinary things about yourself and the world. And posting picutres of things like squid on a stick :)

carson leith said...

didn't know you were in taiwan chase! this is awesome. hope you are well.

Muppet Soul said...

Man alive...

I just heard that saying ( You are not lonely, you are solitary) in the last.. 24 hours...

This is going to kill me.

((digging the blog))

Kali said...

Loved this post, Chase you are awesome. I'm sure the next 6 months will go by superfast...