Winter

I just spent a week in Iceland. Many questioned me in disbelief when I told them of my plans — Iceland, in winter?! Each time, I’d smile and nod and go into some spiel of how the northern lights are only visible during winter and how it wouldn’t be that cold. But it was cold. Of course it was cold. It was Iceland — an island north in the arctic circle in the dead of a January winter. While it was nothing like the winters of far north Scandinavia or even Canada, my hands were rendered useless after only a couple minutes of exposure — and warming them up again was a slow, physically painful process.

And yet something about this cold landscape called to me.

I am drawn to contrasts. To the desert and the desolate. To the cold, frozen tundra. For even in the desert, brilliant species of cacti thrive. Even in an Icelandic winter, emerald moss sprawls itself on the rugged terrain and grass emerges beneath the snow and ice. Waves crash on the frozen, rocky shores, and the mountains sparkle with dustings of powdered sugar snow against periwinkle skies. Winter can be harsh. But life emerges despite its harshness.

2018 signals a year of change for me. I know I need to seek new opportunities and new ventures — I know if I stay put, my dreams will continue to die a slow death in my being. And I can’t let that happen. At least, I can’t go down without a fight. But it’s terrifying in so many ways. Because as much change as I’ve experienced in my lifetime — and I’ve experienced a lot compared to most my age — I’m still not okay with it. I know so painfully well what these kinds of changes require of me because I’ve done this all before. Moving, starting over — it can be financially crippling. I question every day how I am going to survive. How I am going to find a job without a specifically valuable career to list on my resume. How I am going to afford to keep renting on my own when the cost of living alone has pushed me beyond my means. I wonder how I will make it again without friends. Without connections. I’ve done this exact move more than a few times in my life, and it never seems to get easier, only harder. Can I really put myself through all that again? And for what? For this small shred of hope that perhaps there is still purpose for my life beyond simply making a living, paying the bills, and at times just surviving?

I am in my own season of winter. And the landscape of my dreams seems desolate and barren. And honestly, it breaks my heart a little. Because I am this huge dreamer — perhaps to a fault. But I can’t help myself. I can’t help but still believe sometimes that if I just put my entire heart into something, whether it’s a project or a relationship or an ideal, that only good can come of that. If I could just be bold and vulnerable and open — if I could just believe something to be true — then that would be enough to move hearts and mountains. Enough to move the entire universe even. But that isn’t always how the story plays out. And this reality has crushed my spirit many times beneath a seemingly unbearable weight. A part of me remembers that feeling so well — and it makes me want to give up before I begin. To stop believing. To stop dreaming. To stop being the idealist or the romantic, because I can’t prove to anyone yet from my own experiences that there’s actually value to that. The trajectory of my life has not gone the way I thought it would, despite my best efforts, so why would I continue on with this mentality — with this hope?

I guess the answer to that question is: I’m not sure I know another way. Because idealism and hope and the ability to believe in possibilities against all odds is so intricately interwoven in the mapping of my brain that to give those up would be to cease to exist as me. And while my personal failures or life disappointments may bury me in sadness, while the harshness of my winter at times may leave me numb and frozen, I feel something in my being stirring — saying, “You are more than this. You have more to give. You are brave. And fierce. And resilient. Believe in who you are.”

A beautiful friend reminded me this week that “as long as we have breath, we have purpose and dreams to be fulfilled.” And that’s the thing about winter — the elements are unforgiving at times, but I am still here. Breathing. Being. Alive. And I know that if things were always warm and pleasant and easy, I would never know what it’s like to be challenged. To die and be reborn. To face my utter weaknesses and yet be surprised by my secret strengths. I would never know what it’s like to live and walk with pain and to rise again every single day in the face of that.

Pain manifests itself differently for all of us. For some, it’s illness and disease — crippling physical pain and endless hospital visits resulting in countless rounds of medicine and lifestyle changes to try to cope. For others like me, it’s depression or anxiety — or loss of relationships, of people we let ourselves care about. It’s ghosts from our past, or questions left unanswered. It’s the struggle of dreams unrealized. And a constant seeking of identity after a lifetime of wandering — of wondering where we belong and why we have gifts and talents if we’re not fully able to use them in a way that could change our world for the better.

I think pain is what holds me back — it’s what holds all of us back. And it makes sense. We are, after all, only human. Mere mortals in a universe that is always asking more of us — pushing us to our limits, seeing how much we can take. And what is fear but an avoidance of pain? The fear of more loss — of not being able to find ourselves again after a loss — it’s a powerful thing. It’s a powerful thief of dreams. I don’t know if I can continue to fight this thief, but I know I have to try.

So I embrace you, winter. I embrace you — understanding that the coming months and years most likely will not be easy. That you, my dear familiar winter, may not give way to spring. That much will be required of me. That I may fail. And find myself completely alone. That I may question my very existence. Just as I have many times before. But I will try to hold on to the little things.

How the crispness of your air reminds me that blood flows through my veins.

How you welcome the sun’s warmth, just as summer does.

And how you show me over and over again that life not only persists, but thrives, under your brilliantly bright cloak of white.

Winter bird

Winter flight © Little Lion Art

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Finding Home for the Holidays

Autumn has always been my favourite season. I didn’t get to experience it often during my childhood living abroad in a tropical climate year round where seasons ranged from hot and humid to semi-hot, humid, and rainy. The crisp air, the smell of firewood burning, the colourful leaves, the ability to walk outside and not sweat my face off — all perks of the changing climate. But with autumn comes the approach of the holiday season — and the question “What are you doing for the holidays?” can surface on three separate occasions in the span of six weeks.

Those of you who know me well and know some of my story will have heard me say that the question that I struggle the most with is: “Where are you from?” Nothing can strike a chord of anxiety in my being quite like that one. Ask any diplomat kid, missionary kid, military kid — we probably all have a similar feeling when it comes to answering that one. Sometimes I give a shortened but truthful answer: “I was born in Charleston, but I lived overseas half my life and moved around a lot in my twenties. Most recently I was living in Australia. Then I moved back to volunteer in South Dakota, but I ended up in Charleston for now.” I usually get quite a few perplexed looks with that response. So I’ve shortened it to, “I was born in Charleston, but I’m kind of from all over.” Sometimes I throw in an pseudo-Australian accent and say I’m from Charleston if I really want to trip people up. This year it dawned on me that the question of what I am doing for the holidays is ranking up there at 2nd place in the things people can ask me that cause a feeling of dread in my heart. Sometimes if I’m caught off guard and allow myself to be vulnerable, I’ll explain a little bit of why that is. But most of the time I think it’s just easier to pretend I’m a grinch that secretly hates all things holiday-related — like Christmas music and sentimentality. Which — again — if you truly know me well, you’d know I’m as sentimental as they come. But that sentimentality is a soft core hidden away by my tough exterior — a shell of armor I believe I unknowingly started building around my heart during my vagabond childhood.

The day we left the States to make the 11,000 mile journey to Papua New Guinea, I remember stealing away twice to the back bedroom in my grandma’s house trying to hide. We were all extremely close to my mom’s parents in Charleston, and the thought of not seeing them for 3+ years was more than my 5 year old heart could bear. I figured if I hid away — maybe they would leave me. Maybe I could stay. Or maybe, at the very least, no one would see me cry. Those were the days of sending snail mail. We didn’t have the luxury of email, phone calls, or FaceTime. When we went away for years at a time, we were literally cut off from those we loved. A childhood spent as a third culture kid (TCK) is a lonely one in many ways. Yes, I had my family. And I made friends. I became a citizen of the world in some ways. And how that experience broadened my mind and shaped who I am as a human in a greater society than the one I was born into is invaluable. But, the loss that TCKs experience in their developmental years is far more than some people experience in a lifetime back “home.” Only fellow TCK’s can fully understand it. Which can be alienating when you’re an adult trying to figure out why certain seemingly normal things prompt pangs of sadness — why life just always seems a little bit harder than it should be.

“What are you doing for the holidays?” When a lady in the lift at work asked me that the other morning, I responded with a simple answer of “not much,” explaining that my parents were overseas so I would just be “doing my own thing.” She must have noticed my ringless finger and responded that if she were single, she would just sit at home and eat a bowl of cereal, being happy she didn’t have to deal with the cooking and chaos that comes along with most holiday festivities. I just shook my head and mumbled something — I have no recollection what. But in my mind, I wondered — what am I supposed to say to that? Should I be happy that there’s no where particularly special to go? Should I be thanking my Lucky Charm stars that I have the option of eating cereal in my apartment if I wanted to? I always tell myself in those moments that they can’t help it — they just don’t understand what they’ve never experienced. But, inside it makes me hurt a little. As much as I hate those extremely lame holiday Hallmark movies that my mom insists on watching whenever she happens to be stateside this time of year, I can’t help but secretly wish my life were a little like a Hallmark movie sometimes (minus the less than stellar acting). I fully acknowledge my lameness in this ideology, but how could I not want a holiday story that seems so familiar, and full of life and light?

My family of course celebrated all the holidays overseas, but something was always missing — grandparents, festive decor everywhere, cold weather. Even though my mom would always do everything in her power to make sure Thanksgivings and Christmases and all holidays were celebrated, I always had this feeling deep down that the celebrations were not quite whole, because we were missing extended family. At first it was just my grandparents. But every time we returned overseas, we’d leave a sibling behind. So then it was my older sister — and then my older brother — who became MIA in our holiday celebrations. In the 12 years I lived abroad, I spent a total of 4 Thanksgivings and Christmases in Charleston. When I returned to the states permanently to graduate from high school and attend university, the only thing that changed was that I was now the one living in America — my parents and younger sister returned overseas for another 3 years. Every summer and Christmas break in uni, I had to figure out where I was going to go. I spent a few school breaks with my older sister in Florida, and one with my uncle and aunt in Iowa. When my grandparents passed away and their house was sold, I felt like what little piece of “home” and tradition I had held onto was gone. And eventually this life of wandering in a sense led me back overseas to Australia in my mid-twenties — and I would spend holidays with friends or friends’ families when possible. Sometimes I had to spend them alone. When I returned stateside a few years ago, I was able to spend Christmas with some of my immediate family. My parents are often overseas during the part of the year when Thanksgiving falls, but they are usually home for Christmas. This year, they are missing both. And everything just feels harder this year. How do you explain to people who come back from holiday gatherings feeling so full when your holidays felt empty?

In some ways, I thought that by now I would have had my own family or a partner to create holiday traditions and memories with. But that hasn’t been my story. And that’s ok. But as I approached the holiday season this year, I kept thinking that this subtle, yet gut-wrenching sadness in my soul had to stem from more than that. I’ve spent many holidays throughout my adult life without a significant other. Why should this year be any different? Then it all dawned on me. That I’ve been looking for a place to “belong” my entire life. From navigating living in a foreign culture, to navigating how to adjust back to another seemingly “foreign” culture when returning stateside — from spending years apart from family members — from wondering where I would spend this summer, or that Christmas, throughout most of my adult life. And although I know the true meaning behind Thanksgiving and Christmas, I can’t deny the message that permeates our culture and our conversations — that this season is a time for family, a time to spend with the people you love. But the people I love are spread out across the entire world — spanning not only countries and oceans but what seems like different lifetimes in my memory. I don’t know what it feels like to go home every year for the holidays — to the same place or the same people.

I want to be the person who’s okay with listening to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving (some of you already started WAY before Thanksgiving which — not gonna lie — sparked a little bit of rage in my soul, but I try not to judge). I want to be the person who loves the holidays instead of the person who has to fight against the subtle sadness that so often accompanies them. The truth of the matter is: I am 35 years old, and I am tired of having to find somewhere to fit. There will always be an immense chasm in my soul from this journey that is my story. But, I am not a grinch. I love the idea of family and festivities and familiarity. I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but I love the idea of it. It just takes me a little longer to answer that question. It takes me a little longer to put the tree up. To find the holiday spirit.

In a perfect INFP unicorn version of my world, I would adore the holidays. But right now, that’s not my world. And I’m trying to be okay with that. Maybe it will always be this way, but maybe it won’t. And while there are certainly things that make me sad, especially this time of year, I am immensely thankful that I am safe, and warm. That I have food, and shelter, and clothes, and at times companionship. I often feel homeless in my being — but I am not a refugee fleeing for my life. I am not a vet living on the streets. It’s difficult not to feel divided in my soul in those moments of sadness or longing — how is it ok that I am not ok when there are those in this world who are literally fighting for their lives, fleeing from their homes amidst war and horror and death, and often being rejected from places that should be their new home. I am not a single mom or struggling family who might not know where their next meal is coming from, let alone how to provide presents under the tree on December 25th. Perhaps our longings as humans are entirely based on our individual circumstances and the circumstances of those immediately around us. Perhaps that is our flaw. But we are human after all, and I suppose companionship is an innate human desire. But regardless, I am incredibly fortunate by so many standards. And that realization helps me find peace, helps me feel grateful, helps me remember to be open, and to give.

We all have a story. Fears. Hurts. Wounds. Losses. Things that hold us back, and keep us guarded, and wreck our hearts. The holidays can be rough for that reason. But I am reminded of the Christmas story. And whether or not you believe in the Christmas story or celebrate the holidays in your own way, it’s still a great story. That the would be King of our world would come to Earth and have no where to go — no celebratory gathering, no extended family visiting, no home. The entire Christmas holiday is based on one refugee’s story. When I think of that, I am reminded that we all come into this season carrying something. But despite our burdens or our circumstances, we all have something to give to each other. Even if it’s just a smile. Kindness. Eyes that may struggle to see but strive to sympathize. Hearts that are willing to shine a little bit of light into someone else’s life whenever possible. I fail at that most days. I fail at all of it. But this season, as complicated as it can be at times, is all about light. And love. And hope. And in that shared message — in that shared story — we can all find belonging.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

– Tolkien

Fierce. (A Poem)

You are so much more
Than what you see,
Than what I see.

You are fierce.
You are a blazing, roaring fire
In a city of ashes,
Amidst a sea of flickering flames
Slowly surrendering to the shadows of night.

Refuse to let the wounds define you.
Refuse to let the wounded extinguish you.
Refuse to be tamed,
To dwindle down into a meagre, burnt-out coal.

Find a way to fuel your flame when no one else remembers to,
When no one else has the capacity to,
When your very being abandons you.

Because the world needs the light that burns within your soul.
The world needs the love that swells inside your bones.
The world needs you —
Your passion,
Your vision,
Your full and fathomless heart.

All it takes for success is perseverance — and a bag of cheese puffs.

I started out my morning today feeling a little bit blah. Things in my life seem to be shifting constantly of late, and I guess I’m not coping with all the changes as well as I would like. I mean, sure — I have felt a sort of general incompetency at adulting these days, but who doesn’t at some point in time. When I learned of another change I’ll face soon — this time in my work environment — I decided to cure my blah-ness with a high calorie, high fat junk food smorgasbord from the company vending machine.

So cash in hand, confidence in stride – I make my way to the vending machine knowing that all that’s standing between me and success today is a bag of cheese puffs. “Vending machine is out of commission,” the workman tells me. “Come back in 15 minutes.” Minor hiccup. I can go with the flow. I can cruise. Let me show you my flexibility skills, people. I am flexing all over the shop. I did eventually get my cheese puffs. And I convinced myself that life would be okay.

Fast forward a few hours to lunchtime. I didn’t feel like driving anywhere, and in classic Mel fashion, I was a little indecisive about what to eat. I see one of my favorite food trucks in the traffic circle at work and head outside to order. Chicken sandwich with pimento cheese and French fries? Yes please. The rainclouds have been replaced with patchy blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Things are looking up. Wait a second, why is the ordering window closed? Why are the truck lights on? It’s only 1:05. Food trucks always stay til 1:30. Except for today apparently. Today, food trucks leave at 1:05.

At this point I’m hangry. Decision making skills have significantly decreased. Brain power is at a minimum. I settle on a sandwich place I’ve been to multiple times without hassle. Already in the car and halfway down the road, I decide to call in my order ahead of time so it’ll be ready when I arrive. The girl on the other end of the phone tells me they’re not taking pick up orders today. “No worries,” I say – practicing my mental flexibility skills – “I’ll just come in and order it to go even if I have to wait a bit.”

“We’re not taking ‘to go’ orders either, ” she tells me. “We’re too busy.”

“So you mean I can only eat there today if I’m dining in?”

“Yes.”

Okayyy. I see what you’re doing there, universe.

In a last ditch effort to prove I’m at least mildly competent at something like – oh, I don’t know – the ability to feed myself, I head to Chipotle because making any more decisions today about anything in my life might result in my brain spontaneously combusting in my head. Front parking spot! Yes. Maybe this was meant to be. But as I walk up to the door, I notice this guy walk out with his head down, looking like he’s trying to avoid me. Takes me a second, but then I realize he’s someone that I went on a date with a couple months back. We met at a food truck one day between our office buildings. I’m slightly confused at this maneuver – but, who knows, maybe my confusion is really just brain fog from low blood sugar or depleted energy reserves from being hangry.

I want to say to him: Hey man, what’s happening, how’s life. But since it’s clear he’s making this moment awkward, I just let it go. The weird thing is I thought we could be friends. I mean, sure, I only initially said yes to the date because he seemed nice, actually showed interest in me which men never do, and he kinda had this James McAvoy thing going for him. But even though I realized on that date that I felt nothing romantically, that perhaps my heart wasn’t as free as I had previously thought, we still had some laughs and interesting conversation. He texted several times and mentioned hanging out again – so at the very least, I thought we parted friends. Which, if I were being honest, was really all I was after in the first place. And I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt in this — maybe he didn’t notice my bright blonde hair and my bold yellow sweater standing a foot away from him. Maybe he was fighting brain fog of his own. Maybe.

After all that, I truly did expect to walk into Chipotle and have them tell me they were fresh out of guac and cheese and black beans and flour to make tortilla shells, but they weren’t. In the end, I found my success. It just took me a while to get there — and a bag of cheese puffs to help me along the way.

Brave

Choosing to be brave is never a mistake.
But sometimes it will cost you every drop of strength you had left in your being.
And when it does – when it leaves your heart cracked, stripped bare,
And your soul a desert of wasted love and wilted dreams,
You’ll tell yourself that you were foolish.
Too idealistic. Too hopeful. Too bold.
You’ll tell yourself to be silent next time.
You’ll tell yourself it must be you.
But it was never you.
You, my dear one, are the brightest truest thing there ever was.

So write this on the chalkboard of your mind.
Scream it in the chambers of your heart.
Choosing to be brave is never a mistake.
Because in that choice, you honor yourself.
You honor humanity.
You honor life itself.
We were never meant to be vessels of unspoken words,
Of fear, of cowardice,
Of smothered hopes,
And stifled cries.

I know right now you feel trapped in the sadness,
In the fog of unanswered questions,
In the hauntings of self doubt,
But you are not trapped forever.
Because only in complete vulnerability can you ever be free.
And you set yourself free every single time you choose to speak up,
To step out,
To leap,
To love.

Wild heart.

A few weeks ago I sang a song called “Take Courage.” When I first heard the song, I thought to myself, wow – if anyone understands the meaning in these lyrics, I do. And yet, as beautiful as the song was and as much as I love singing songs that I personally relate to and songs that I think hit on such a deep level for so many people, I remember grappling with my delivery. For some reason I struggled to sing it with the power and passion I know I felt when I reflected on the lyrics – perhaps because they resonated within my being far greater than I anticipated.

Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul.
He’s in the waiting. 
He’s in the waiting.

I’m surrounded by change. Transition is necessary and inevitable in life, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt like hell sometimes. In writing a friend this week about this whole subject of transition, I said, transition is hard because it feels like death. In a sense, it is. Even valid reasons for change do not negate the fact that with change, just as with death, comes mourning. We mourn what was, what could have been, what we knew needed to end, or what we hoped to just begin. We mourn what’s comfortable, and safe, and familiar.

Familiar.

When I think of the word familiar, I think of home. I think of a place, or a person – someone or something that knows you so well that words are not necessary because your eyes speak volumes in a language that only they can truly understand. My life has been a constant search for home, both in a place to belong to and a person to belong with. Researchers say that this is a natural tendency or phenomenon of sorts for children who’ve grown up moving so much – especially back and forth overseas. They even have a term for us: “third culture kids.” We have never truly known a sense of home, because our home was the world. Our familiarity was not in a house we grew up in, or in friends we attended the same school with year after year, or in extended family gatherings every holiday. Our familiarity was in suitcases and airports and other languages and cultures.

It is perhaps no wonder why we end up with such transient spirits. And why I set off at 18 to find my home. I moved cities, and states, and eventually countries. I integrated into another culture again. I traveled. And changed. And left. And started over again. All in pursuit of this ever elusive place called home. And each time, each place, as challenging or wonderful as it was – I still felt like something was missing. I still found myself searching.

In seasons of transition, I naturally re-evaluate where I’m at and where I’m headed. And what I’ve finally realized is that wanderer hearts such as mine will always feel a bit restless — because I’ve tasted the world and I know the magic that can be found when you allow yourself to be brave enough to discover it. This restlessness will stay with me, pushing me to explore, to be curious, to seek new adventures. And that restlessness will both inspire me and irritate me at times, but it is mine, and it’s ok for me to own it. But in owning it, I have to acknowledge that as much as my restlessness and curiosity would have me believe the next destination on the map will somehow magically be the wonderland to my alice, I’m not quite sure I believe anymore that X marks the spot.  Because I’ve wandered the globe enough to know now that home does not exist in a geographic location, but in the person or persons waiting for you there.

So while I have nothing holding me back – words many have shared with me throughout my life – the sentiment that I have not been able to voice in response is that maybe I want something to hold me back. I fully believe in exploring possibilities, in finding yourself. People like to say that you can’t expect someone else to complete you. And I agree wholeheartedly. And that is why I’ve traveled, and tried new things. That is why I have dreams and why I still pursue them despite the odds. I’ve learned immensely along the way, and I know I will always have an explorer’s heart. But it’s not enough for me anymore. Even though I am enough, I still feel like something is missing. And feeling slightly less than whole without someone’s hand to hold is neither misguided or flawed. Because the universe is filled with pairings. The sun and the moon. Peanut butter and jam. One without the other is sufficient, but not superior. The fact is: while everyone is different, and some need and desire relationship more than others, we as humans are hard wired for companionship in some capacity.

And for people like me – the INFPs, the dreamers, the true, dare I say, hopeless romantics – that desire is perhaps stronger than it is for other types. We truly love love. So much of our culture teaches us to be self reliant – to go through life believing we don’t need anyone but ourselves. But this is not the way it was meant to be. And even I, the “lover of love,” the dreamer that I am, have to fight that tendency to go through life as the lone wolf. I hold so tightly to my independence, and yet on the flip side I can’t deny that if I were being completely honest, I’d have to admit that I want to need and be needed in return. And as much as I’ve tried to keep that part of my heart a secret, for fear of coming across too soft, or appearing weak or inadequate, I am starting to believe that the capacity and desire for love is not my weakness but perhaps my greatest strength. But that strength scares me sometimes, because I know it’s where I’m vulnerable – where I can be hurt, and have been hurt before.

It’s not easy for me to be open with just anyone. Still waters run deep with people like me, but I’m terrified that my deepness is too intense for the average person. I rarely meet people that interest me on a higher level. But when I find someone I want to be open with, I can easily care more than I should. Which is scary, and risky. And sometimes mind-blowing. I think I’ve built this impenetrable fortress around my heart and only I hold the key to the drawbridge; so when someone manages to slip through undetected past the facade and the armor I wear to appear tough, I’m left confused, and caught off guard, and yet somehow completely fascinated at the person who was able to pull off this feat.

I’ve crossed oceans, made my own path, started over, loved, lost, and loved again. And throughout all my journeys — as amazing and life-changing as they’ve been — all I really want is to come home to something familiar. To someone who can grab my shoulders and look me in the eye and say I know life is chaotic and challenging and confusing sometimes, but I am here and I’ve got you and this adventure is ours for the taking. I don’t need them to fight my battles or save the day, because I am a warrior – I have plenty of fight and fire in my soul. But there are moments I will need to fall, to rest, to let my guard down – and to be held when I do.

I feel like I’m just standing out in the field, arms outstretched, stripped bare in vulnerability with my childlike hopeful heart, and I’m waiting –  I’m waiting for you. I’m asking you to see me – to know me. To take a chance on me. To let me in. To let me care. I am not afraid to know you. Tell me your dreams and your hopes and your fears. Tell me your darkest nightmares and show me your scars. I don’t need perfection or prestige. I only need to see you as you are: kind and honest and beautiful.

And I don’t desire this because I’m weak, or broken, or somehow incapable of standing on my own two feet. I have stood on my own every day since I left home, and probably even before then. I am not inadequate without you. I am fierce, and brave, and stronger beyond what even I can see in myself. But I believe I could be stronger with you, and you with me. I believe that ultimately we were not meant to walk this earth alone. And I know that despite the warrior in my soul, the very essence of my being screams love. I do not know another way. We’re not guaranteed happiness, or fairytale endings. Life is full of mystery, and that’s what makes the adventure so amazing. So when you find me, know that I’m not asking you to complete me. I’m asking you to join me – for whatever it’s worth, for however long it would last. Because my heart is too full, too passionate, too wild not to share.

Vernazza.

An excerpt from my travel journal (which I unfortunately was not committed to keeping up) last year:

01 May 2015

Inspiration is everywhere.  Remember that.

Find beauty in the small details. Even when rain threatens, see the beauty in the chaos of the storm, just like you see it in the steadiness of the sun’s rays on a bluebird day.

I arrive in Vernazza to a rainy, gloomy sky. It’s hard to start adventures on days like this. I am trying not to dwell on it. I am tired. And hungry. I’m like the hulk when I’m hungry. It’s truly frightening.

The rain is expected to clear tomorrow, and I eagerly await the sun – I just want to feel its warmth. But today, I rest. And tomorrow, I can explore. Tomorrow brings new hope.

Vernazza is everything I could have imagined and more. I can’t wait to set out with my camera. Even in the rain, this place exudes a calm, local beauty. The sea quiets my soul. I saw this funny old man wearing a white hat with a red pompom on it. I love that Italian men are confident enough to rock white hats with red pompoms. He smiled at me and simply said, ciao bella. Hello beautiful. I wanted to capture his presence in a photo, but I am a bit timid still with my camera.

This book is a bit bloody hard to write in. I think pens are rather disagreeable. I suppose it’s a step up from the quill and ink of ancient times. Barely. But I digress.

My room overlooking Via Roma could not have been more perfect. Vintage, and cute – I love how every room has a window that opens out to the noise of the street below. And the streets are indeed noisy – locals and tourists bustling about. But I don’t seem to mind it. I can feel connected to the liveliness even from the solitude of my room. An introvert’s dream? Perhaps. ; )

I can’t help but think how nice it would be to have someone special on this journey with me. This city holds a certain romanticity that is hard to ignore. One day I suppose I’ll be back with my person. But for now, I am so grateful that I can be here to soak it all in. No schedule needed. Just simply be. Exist. Breathe.

Open your eyes, I tell myself. I am almost afraid I won’t be able to grasp the beauty in such a short time. Breathe it all in. This is your life. All crazy and chaotic and full of vibrance and mystery and wonder. Remember these moments. These moments are what you work for, what you live for. They are few, but they are wondrous.

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