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...