I've already said it's not easy to say out loud, to write on paper, to post onto the world wide ever-expanding-dont-do-anything-that-will-get-you-fired web your basic philosophy on life and plans for the future; Despite this there's a quote I love from the Mexican movie 'Amores Perros' that kind of explains it all, you know - Why they'll tell you not to, and why you should anyway.
Susana: 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans' Octavio: 'God can laugh all he wants, I still have my plans'.
Of course God in my context doesn't mean God. 'God' is all those people who will laugh at you and tell you not to, the general universe that seems not to notice you unless you are climbing up the corporate ladder, or falling off it. And it seems I've been making a lot of plans, and hearing a lot of laughter. But that's OK because I'm not in this alone. I am only able to be annoyingly defiant, obnoxiously over-confident and completely opinionated thanks to a lot of good people who I wish to acknowledge here, not least because I think people need to know when they're being awesome but also because these people are on the side of 'Why you should anyway'. I will try and avoid the cheesiness of Oscar-winning speeches and hope it turns out a little more like fan-mail to people who are better than any baby-adopting celebrity out there (Angelina Jolie, I'm looking at you).
My parents, for having four other children to whom they can live vicariously through, easing the pressure on me to fulfill their every unmet dreams of youth - I've been spared from the obligation to become a child prodigy, world-class pianist, a maths and science guru and also, dare I say it - tall. I need to thank them also for nodding, smiling and keeping their knee-jerk reactions at bay when I quit my job and decided to work for free instead. For not deeming me mentally unsound when they repeatedly discovered my aversion to money (somewhat worrying) and my grand plans for my future that were about as far away as you can get from the medical-school-graduate they had planned.
To my friends, who have at times looked a little more confused than my parents. You've been my best critics and unknowingly (through the all too familiar slightly tilted head, eyebrows furrowed with a look that begs the question 'Are you serious?') helped me confront the realities of the challenges I'm going to face head on. For not letting me go off completely into lala land without warning me of the flying monkeys and fake-wizards that lay ahead, and then also - perhaps for lack of being able to restrain me - respectfully allowing me to take off onto my soap box and into my rants of life according to Grace.
A few people I don't know, who have unknowingly influenced me in the past month, the past years, or even the past couple of days through their websites, their stories and their unwavering conviction and vision of how they want the world to be. Chris at The Art of Non-Conformity, Marianne at Zen and the Art of Peace-keeping, Susannah Connaway and too many others to count.
Without these people, I wouldn't have had the courage to shout out loud everything I've been wanting to do but never really thought I could. Now, I'm not blaming you, but other people might - just a heads up.. only kidding! Huge arms-wide-open thanks. God can laugh all he wants, thanks to you, I still have my plans!
Whenever I watch Departures I get the itch to pack my bags, book a round-the-world ticket, run out the door and never look back. 'One whole year goes by in a blink'. The views, places, cinematography and soundtrack never fail to make my jaw hit the floor and I get this burning feeling that I want to be as awesome as them. It makes me excited to go to Spain for a year, to travel, to take amazing videos and photographs and share them here with you all - and spread the travel-bug if you haven't already got it! Well, not sure how fast a year goes but starting January I'll let you know.. !
PS. There's a song that has been driving me crazy that I can't find anywhere that goes 'We walk on melting snow, inside making fire and tea, I met you while I was wondering, we've seen many worlds since then' - It's on the commercials for Departures and Nat Geo Adventure - If anyone knows what the song is called you'd be putting me out of my misery!
As part of an extra-curricular program I'm undertaking at uni, last week I went to attend a net-working event and seminar. I stood near the doorway entrance nervously, alone. I didn't know anybody and was looking around the room with an obvious mix of desperation and embarrassment pouring from my eyes like some sort of doe-eyed puppy awaiting adoption. I was tossing up whether to catch the first train home or hover near the free food pretending to be texting on my phone until the talk started when I thought - this is ridiculous. There are times in life when it's OK to back down, to slink away, to admit defeat but this was not one of them. This was one of those harden-up-pull-yourself-together moments. I began speaking to two guys who were in the elevator with me and with the mastery of some small-talk and jokes at my own expense I was saved from social exile. Who knew it could be that easy?
I have to say, as a person who has seven members in her family, two brothers and two sisters - not to mention the long list of extended family and constant crowds of friends that seem to be dropping in at our house - I'm not used to going to anything by myself. Maybe it's a girl thing too, but in highschool we always had to go in pairs anywhere and everywhere. To the canteen, to the bathroom, to speak to a teacher, to drop off a library book. The fear of being alone was routinely tamed by constant companionship.
That was until I started paying taxes, complaining about school children being 'too noisy' and slowly morphing into a person who often prefers to drink peppermint tea and watch a movie than expend my now rapidly depleting resources of energy into constant socialising. Ever since I started this process of 'growing up' I've had to do a lot of things on my own and to my own shock and horror I love it. Independence, that is. The entire concept of 'growing up' still has my Peter-Pan instincts clinging to childhood but the part where I'm on my own doesn't scare me so much anymore. In fact, I revel in it.
The thing about being on your own is that you are no longer accountable to somebody else, you don't have to worry about upsetting another person, catering to their needs or walking on eggshells, you are allowed and indeed you have the perogative to follow your own dreams. While not having a familiar face around is hard, it pushes you out of where you're comfortable and into somewhere a lot more scary and infinitely more interesting. Not having anybody to hide behind anymore you're forced, in a way, to have new experiences, to meet different people and to have adventures all of your own. I'm not encouraging being lonely - but there's certainly something unique about doing things lone-wolf style.
As my first ever university tutor told me, "I'm more about getting out of the box I'm in, rather than better decorating it". I've always taken this to mean that, instead of accepting the life you're given without question and simply trying to 'make the best of it', you consciously look at what else is out there, what life you want - you seek it out and make it yours. Adventure, over decoration. I'd take the first any day.
Getting a tattoo is not on my bucketlist. I'm scared because I might as well get a tattoo of regret on my forehead, or else I'll go the complete other way and become addicted. Either way, there are too many decisions and I find I change my mind, my personality, my ideas too much and too often that there's nothing I see that I'd want for a lifetime, that I would still like when it's wrinkled and sun-spotted. Though, a girl can dream.. 'What If'.. So many choices...mmm
Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem & Scarlett Johansson - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
So I may have mentioned a few (million) times that I am currently learning Spanish or Castellano as it is also called. What I probably have not mentioned however is how this actually going. When you're learning a new language, personally I think, it's easy enough to begin with the basics, Hello, how are you going? My name is Jim, I have 2 sisters and live in Melbourne etc. etc. You learn pick up lines and occasionally swear words, silly phrases and life-saving-lines (Where is the toilet? Call the Police etc.). Beyond that, I have discovered, is a big scary world of grammar, tenses and a lot of things you take for granted.
In Spanish classes you learn there are different past tenses, there are 'moods' which confusingly are not tenses, there are rules to follow diligently yet always there are exceptions and irrregular verbs to be learned. Apart from this, Spanish being a latin language, you learn some geeky nifty things about the english and spanish languages. For example 'Adios' in Spanish meaning Good bye translates literally meaning 'To God'. The name Dolores literally means pain, and being filipino also makes me appreciate more the influence of Spanish on so many filipino words.
And, of course, beyond the teaching and the words there is my spanish teacher - who is a force of nature in herself. People think that I am exaggerating when I describe her. Folks, I am not. Her dramatism is astounding; everything is 'increeeeeeeeeeeedible' 'wonderrrrful', 'amaaaaazing'. Maybe it's the natural rhythm of the language, the accent or the innate magnetism of spanish-speakers with drama, but at one point she even burst out into an 'hallelujah, hallelujah!' when somebody had formed a sentence in spanish and read it aloud in class. I kid you not. You've got to love her enthusiasm and passion - it certainly is infectious and makes learning spanish feel like more than just a class where you're learning a language. Sometimes I feel like I've discovered some enigmatic truth of life with the way she congratulates us on mastering the grammar of the subjunctive tense. Whatever the case, it is as she says .. increíble!!
I've found with all my spanish teachers that they are always great characters, they really are something else! Maybe it's because I'm impartial to anybody that speaks spanish but I find them endlessly fascinating, their accents completely taken for granted, and their general demeanor a source of curiosity and imitation. Learning Spanish for me is number one on the To-Do-List, and here's hoping it all pays off. There are a lot of languages that I want to learn - though I'll have to master this before I move onto anything else.. so who knows how long that will take! Que será será !
A note from the universe arrived for you today, reader, and I was asked to pass it on.
In case I didn't already tell you, it's not me - it's all you. You're completely remarkable, it will all work out fine and nothing will happen that I know you can't handle. I have left you in complete control of the universe (just don't press the red button) - DREAM BIG and make it happen. Did I mention, you get to make the rules? (Yeah, it's the best part.. I thought so too). Oh, and the part where you dance till the sun rises, sing till your voice gives out and forget about things like laundry and taxes. And Yes, I'm talking to you, silly.
Starting a website, a business, a blog - any new adventure - is always a bit like going on a first date. You begin nervously, scared of what someone else will think of you. You don't know how to dress, what to wear, what to say or what is going to happen. Basically, you've taken a big leap of faith and are doing what a lot of people should do more often - you're putting yourself out there.
If you've ever been on a blind date, applied for a job, joined a sports team, approached a stranger or anything that's got you questioning your own self-worth, chances are you'll know what I'm talking about. That sweaty-palms feeling where you're not too sure you should have bought into the old latin phrase Carpe diem. This is what this year has felt like for me.
In a lot of ways I decided to stop living the way I thought everybody expect me to live, and I decided to go - All Out - on the big, crazy ideas I concocted when I was about fourteen and watched a documentary on the famine in Africa that moved me to tears. I decided, resolutely, that I was going to do something about it. In short, as an idealistic teenager with the cynicism, jadedness and critics not yet at work, I was going to change the world.
Since then, I made my way through highschool and started a five-year university degree without much thought or action as to making that conviction into reality. I had, up until fairly recently, not disappointed the expecatations of work, study and career path placed upon me by the usual suspects - well-meaning parents, career-thirsty colleagues, stern faced teachers and the anonymous masses that make up 'everybody'. It has become apparent to me that not only are these expecations not something I want to live up to, they are also something that I don't have to meet.
I started this blog a little nervous, a little tentative. Who was going to read it? What would they think? What if somebody thought it was wierd? - all of the rational arguments that stop people from taking big risks were at play. Nonetheless, I started it here, and now have gathered my courage enough to begin to share here, truthfully, what I am doing - what is going through my mind and brought me up until this point. It's fear that keeps me from posting too often about myself, it's fear that makes me second-guess what I want to post and if people will genuinely like what I have to say. Consequently too often I hide behind other peoples words, other peoples work.
With the encouragement from a few close friends and family - and the lovely words from a lot of like-minded people I have never met face to face but have thought enough to leave a friendly comment - I'll be sharing here more of where I am at, how I got here and where I want to be going - what I want to be doing.
I'm still nervous, I'm still scared - but as with all first dates, job applications or opportunities - once you get over the first few hiccups, the awkward silences and initial shyness - it can be the beginning of something great, something worthwhile or even just an epic adventure you never saw coming.
Life-long-to-do-list No. 54. Travel to Cuba before Fidel Castro dies.
All photos by Ephraim Muller
To quote Nat Geo Adventure 'This is your life, and it's the greatest adventure you're ever going to have. So, let's get lost.' There are a lot of places on my places-to-see-before-I-die list. And Cuba is definitely one of them. What makes it particularly special is that its at a turning point in its history, and may never be the same again. It's been frozen in time and isolated from the rest of the world in many ways. And, before it all changes, I want to see with my own eyes this time capsule of a country. I want to see visit the place where a revolution took place, and see buildings still with bullet holes intact and 1950s cars driving around the beaches like they have for decades. The thing with travel these days is that everything is changing so fast, that even if you have done the impossible and 'seen the world' or visited every country, you'll have to do it all over again because by that time everything will have changed. While The World is on my to-see list, Cuba particularly for too many reasons to count.
What place do you want to see with your own eyes in your lifetime?
'Esta es tu vida y es la mayor aventura que jamás tendrás. así, vamos a perder.' ¿Qué lugar quieres ver con tus propios ojos?
1. Crazy/beautiful 2. My Best Friend's Wedding 3. Little Rascals 4. Ten things I hate about you
I don't care what people say, I love kids movies and romantic comedies and I get the sneaking suspicion that deep down everyone - yes, even the boys - are suckers for it too. Again, here are a few of my favourite old-school movies. Just because.
I'm hooked on the kind of American movies that get replayed on Saturday nights on channel ten when you've passed on going out and decided to have a night in - movie-night-classics. Who doesn't want to be the crazy girl with issues in Crazy Beautiful that still gets a guy anyway, or can't relate to Julia Roberts being compared to Jello rather than Creme brulee in My Best Friend's wedding and being the one he doesn't choose, or melt at Alfalfa's talent-quest tribute to Darla singing with soap bubbles coming out of his mouth and Julia Styles flashing a teacher to get Heath Ledger out of class. Epic gestures never go out of fashion.
I'm kind of a big believer in creating change (and as much as I hate to sound like an Australian Election Campaign) I'm big on 'Moving Forward' and 'Real Action'. For me this week has been about making the big calls. I decided I had learned all I could at the internship I've been at for almost six months, and I said yes to a big fat scary unknown of an opportunity that will see me on the opposite side of the country away from friends and family during Christmas and New Years doing something I've always wanted to do. It's a stones-throw away from what I've been doing and a massive leap towards what I want to be doing. And of course, I wanted to let you all know first.
Because I'm one of those lame Awesome people with motivational post-it-notes stuck on my mirror that have quotes like 'Action cures fear' and 'Do one thing that scares you everyday' in large permanent marker so that everytime I catch myself feeding my own vanity by looking into the mirror I get a little life-coaching in the same hit. I have this feelingI know that it really only takes one person to tell you its OK to go for it, to dream big, to dare to imagine and to jump into the expansive unknown - or to see somebody else live it - to give others permission to do the same. Whatever it is, again, I'm telling you - what are you waiting for??
All the best things are scary - wouldn't you know it!
(they're also awesome, larger-than-life and will rock your world... not a bad trade off don't you think?)
'New Orleans is a siren of a city. A place of fables and illusion. A place Lorraine had to escape from and Bobby and I had to escape to. Away from Alabama, away from lives that no longer belong to us.'
All images: A Love Song for Bobby Long 2004
I have an affinity for American novels and movies in and about the South, and this low-key number is one I bought on dvd a few years ago and never tire of watching. I've shared my movie-crush on Blake Lively's indie film 'Elvis & Annabelle' - all about the unexpected in a sleepy Texas town - and with A Love Song for Bobby Long continues my great love affair with the South.
The southern drawl and the way everyone seems to have the small-town blues is something that I'm drawn to and honestly a little in love with. Visiting New Orleans, hitting up a jazz festival or two and wandering around the southern states of America is on my to-do list - and for good reason. The opening credits of this movie alone draw me right in, John Travolta and Scarlett Johanssen are incredible in this film and again - another one more than worth seeing.
'Some people reach a place in time where they've gone as far as they can. A place where wives and jobs collide with desire. That which is unknowable and those who remain out of sight. See what is invisible and you will see what to write. That's how Bobby used to put it. It was the invisible people he wanted to live with. The ones that we walk past everday, the ones we sometimes become. The ones in books who live only in someones mind's eye. He was a man who was destined to go through life and not around it. A man who was sure the shortest path to Heaven was straight through Hell. But the truth of his handicap lay only in a mind both exalted and crippled by too many stories and the path he chose to become one. Bobby Long's tragic flaw was his romance with all that he saw. And I guess if people want to believe in some form of justice, then Bobby Long got his for a song.'