The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day,and if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”

 

by
Oriah Mountain Dreamer
copyright © 1999 by Oriah Mountain Dreamer.
Advertisements

10 Reasons to Welcome December

1. Starbucks Christmas Specials
Personally, I have come to like the Pumpkin Spice Latte but my heart beats for lé Peppermint Mocha, an Eggnog Latte or (on sunnier December days here in Cali) a Cremé Brulee Frap! And, as if taste wasn’t enough of a reason to wait in line, you’ll get to have a pretty Christmas-y cup on your desk for the rest of your day, reminding you of the holly jolly days that are yet to come. Yay!

2. Christmas Candy
Hershey’s Peppermint kisses. Gingerbread M&Ms. Candy Cane Ice-cream. Christmas cookies. Speculoos. Peppernuts. The list could go on and on and on. Any of these options would go great with #1, too. Just saying!

3. Winter clothes and accessories
How about a cute scarf that matches the new tights you scooped up on Black Friday? Possibly a matching glove-hat combo, too? There is so much cuteness in fall and winter clothing. Not to mention that those woolen sweaters and fury jackets are every girl’s friend after the annual Christmas feast.

4. Lights
Lights, lights everywhere! Dark and grey November…ain’t nobody got time for you anymore! Every store is decorated, the buildings are framed with holiday lights, the streets accessorized with lit-up stars and bells… Definitely helps getting over the sun setting at 5pm!

5. Fireplaces
Not everyone is lucky enough to have one of those but if you do, go get yourself some of that delicious fiery warmth! Nothing better than being all cuddled up, drinking tea, reading a book and listening to a good Pandora Station while sitting home by the fire. If you don’t have a fireplace, you better make the right type of friends next year!

6. Christmas Songs
Okay fine, I admit that I am one of those people. One of those people that sometimes, very secretly, listens to one or two Christmas songs in…say…March or July. Just for the fun and to get a smile on my face. So, come December, I am the happiest camper alive because now it is legit to whistle “All I want for Christmas” or hum “Frosty the Snowman”. It just gives me flashbacks to all the past Christmases and reminds me of how magical Santa seemed to me when I was young. Christmas songs bring some of that magical feeling back into my daily life and get me excited for the holidays.

7. The smells
Pine Needles. Chocolate. New Clothes. Shopping bags. Even wrapping paper has a smell, a very characteristic mix of excitement, stress and secretiveness. All in all, come December, it starts smelling delicious everywhere! If you reside in Germany during that month, you will probably have dozens of Christmas markets around you to choose from! Hot spiced wine, toasted almonds, crepes with Nutella, fruits dunked in chocolate, candied apples, all those are smells Americans miss out on.

8. The people
Yes, December is very stressful for many. All this Christmas shopping, all these expectations. I personally have a list of 15 people I am shopping for and it keeps me up at night. But it is also that time of year during which, thanks to commercialization I admit, we are being reminded of love and family and spending time with those that matter. You forgive faster, carry a smile around more often and are a little more considerate and willing to share.

9. Christmas Movies
I have watched “Love Actually” three times in the past two weeks and am not ashamed to admit that. Whether it’s an all-time favorite, such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or more modern picks like “Elf”, Christmas movies spread pure joy. They are so over the top with everything, and there is singing and piano music and families all cheesy-peasy. It sets the stage for Christmas and totally gets you into the mood to eat, sing and celebrate. And eat some more.

10. The loved ones
Many of you might go home for Christmas or have family come visit you. That electrifying feeling of flying/driving/riding/walking home for the holidays is truly one of a kind, so embrace it! Count the days, mark you calenders, and use this month to appreciate the people you love in your life. Hug your mom extra often, call your grandparents more frequently, give your significant other an extra kiss. You know, all these things you should be doing anyways but are being reminded off by the jolly Christmas atmosphere.

So yeah, let’s embrace December, it’s not like you could escape it anyways!

Cheers,
Ari

Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.

CHRISTMAS EXODUS GETS UNDERWAY AT HEATHROW HEATHROW READIES FOR

And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!

Cheers,

Ari

Everyone Else’s Story

The following are aimless philosophical ramblings. No actual point is being made.

That being said: do you ever wonder about everyone else’s story?

I’m writing this on a semi-crowded train taking me from a Bavarian town straight to my new home in the North of Germany. Six and a half hours between the place where I taught a seminar and the place I will call home, forty square meters in beautiful Hamburg, shared with the man I love and (for the time being) quite a lot of cardboard boxes.

I’m twenty-four and I’m in love – with this guy, with a city I’ve only ever visited for weekends, with the steady movement of the train and with this moment in my life.

I can’t help but wonder: what’s everyone else’s story? If you could measure the emotion in this train car, what would you find? At first glance, most of the people surrounding me look bored. But would boredom really be the prevailing feeling you’d find? I doubt it. I’m sure I look bored to those around me, sitting cross-legged in a reclined window seat, typing away on my laptop. Maybe I am a little, intermittently. But much more than that, I am excited, ecstatic, happy, nervous, joyful and a little baffled at how amazing this sequence of events has been.

passengers on train by OTFO on Flickr

passengers on a train (by OFTO on Flickr)

So what about the guy across the aisle with the band-aid on this right thumb, swiping backwards, forwards, up and down on his cell phone? He’s dressed casually, has a small suitcase with him, slight frown on his face. Looks like he’s reading something – sometimes he’ll use two fingers to zoom in on the screen. He looks bored, too. But what if he’s just distracting himself? It’s a Monday evening, so maybe he’s heading home from a long weekend that he spent in the city his long-distance girlfriend lives in. Or boyfriend, actually, maybe. No, probably girlfriend. In that case, would he be a bit sad, maybe, to have to leave? They might have had a fight and he’s somewhere between relief and frustration. They might have gotten engaged, and he’s still trying to process the fact that she said yes. It might have been a Monday work trip, though, too. He might just be tired. Nothing much may be happening in his life right now – or everything.

I won’t know – and I won’t know what brought that couple sharing a newspaper, or the woman with the bright yellow book, on this particular train. Neither will they ever know just how excited I am. That I’m moving, right now, and for the first time in years, moving somewhere I plan on staying indefinitely. I don’t know if they’d care, either. I’d find it interesting, right now, to know what they’re up to – but it wouldn’t touch my life beyond tonight, so in the end, it will not matter to me.

And still, sitting here and letting my eyes wander around the train car, I can’t help but marvel at the unknown stories, the biographies, the tragedies and comedies around me that I will never know. The stories behind these random faces. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around just how MUCH is going on in a single train car, let alone the whole world, at any given point in time. Isn’t that just the most amazing thing to think about?

22 Things I learned at 22

My 23rd birthday is creeping up in a little bit (and has been celebrated for a couple hours in the rest of the world) and I gotta say that my 22nd year of life was magical, challenging and beautiful. Here’s a sum-up of things that life at 22 taught me, in no particular order:

1. Sleep is vital! I mean, I knew that but actually sleeping 7-8 hours each night these days gives me such a much more productive day.

2. There is no “right path” in life. You will think you have found the right way of life or the final life goals for yourself, only to be proven otherwise a couple months down the road. You might think you know what the next years of your life are going to look like, you might feel old enough to make long-term plans but one day you might wake up and your whole world is upside down.

3. If your whole world is turned upside down, you will survive. You are young and will get over it.

4. Cooking is fun! I was a disaster in the kitchen last year around this time and considered Rice A Roni  a legit dinner
(hey, it’s warm and it requires mixing several ingrediences together!). Now, I wake up on Saturdays, feel like baking and end up with four dozen Rasberry White Chocolate Scones. True story.

5. Travel. As far and as often as you possibly can.

6. When in doubt, invest into an experience rather than into an object.

7.  It can still be official, even if Facebook doesn’t say so.

8. It’s ok to say No.

9. It’s ok to be antisocial and stay inside for four weekends in the row, binge on Netflix and Thai food and just enjoy your couch, your favorite sweatpants and GilmoreGirls.

10. Fake it till you make it. As a 22-year-old, people will start treating you like the grown eeryone seems to see in you even if you still feel like your 16-year-old self sometimes. It’s both kinda cool and pretty scary and will sometimes require you to own up to your actual age.

11. That being said though, don’t loose your inner child!

12. It feels good to start paying back student loans. Just eight more years to go, wohooo!

13. Build and/or maintain a strong support system. Family and friends are insanely important.

14. Be with yourself every once in a while. Checking in on yourself regularly is extremely helpful, in my humble opinion.

15. Invest into good shoes. I love me ma heels and boots but I feel most comfortable in my new Nike running shoes (my feet have written an Odé to them, I swear!)

16. Forever 21 is cute and super awesome for a  student’s budget. But really, after wearing the same dress three times, it will have completely lost its shape and just look kinda.. meh. It’s worth paying a little more for a bit more quality.

17. Don’t shy away from love. Ever.

18. You kinda stop caring about other people’s opinion. I mean, I’m still very sensitive to what others think of me but not being friends with the mean girls is not killing me anymore. If they don’t wanna be friends, their loss!

19. There will be many doors opening for you. Do keep as many of them as widely open as possible.

20. Applying to jobs sucks, has always sucked and will always suck but if you do it halfheartedly, it won’t get you anywhere.

21. Being ambitious does not equal being greedy. You can long for more in your life, while still being appreciative of what you have.

22. If you have a dream, freaking make it happen! There is no one to tell you what you can or can’t do or should and shouldn’t do. This is YOUR life, YOUR rules, YOUR action plan and the sooner you realize that, the quicker you can get on that bucket list of yours!

Happy Friday!

Cheers,

Ari

DON’T find your purpose in life!

We have all been there. Sooner or later, you will reach a point in your life where you will ask yourself why? Why am I here? Why am I studying what I am studying or working where I am working? Why am I in this relationship, in this friendship circle, in this city?
And it will all play into the big, overarching, nagging question… THE question:

What is the purpose in life?!

When people don’t find a clear answer to that, they often despair. Or they go out search for whatever can make them complete…a partner, a mission, a religion, a certain type of job maybe?
But I believe that this is a waste of time, especially in your 20ies. When you’re 20, you don’t have to have it all figured out, you shouldn’t either. Imagine how boring it would be if you knew exactly where life would be taking you, if you had it all planned out, had all questions answered. And I also believe it is that continuous search for the bigger, better things, the greater meanings to your daily being that actually prevents you from living. Here is a daring thought: What if the purpose of life is just to live. As good as you want, as much as you can. Just that. Life is not always fair, not always rational and definitely anything but predictable. It doesn’t always make sense, it will toss you around and take you on some detours.

But, as a famous quote says, life is simply lived forwards and understood backwards.

So all of you out there who search and ask and wonder…don’t!  Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you shouldn’t have any ambitions or dreams or goals in your life. I am saying that, while you’re out pursuing those, you shouldn’t forget to live. Over the questions we lie awake at night, the plans we make and the paths we travel on, we need to remember to stop every once in a while and realize the distance we have already gone. Living in the moment might be a hard skill to acquire but once you do, you will be so much happier. You don’t need one overarching goal in life to be happy, you can create your own happiness. You take the good things that are in your life RIGHT NOW and you don’t let go of them, you focus on them until they become all that your life is really about.
And yes, maybe that is a naive 22-year-old speaking. Maybe I would think differently if a loved one had passed or I got fired from a job or I was seriously ill. Maybe then all I could wonder about was why this was happening to me, how I could possibly deserve such cruel punishments. As of now, however, I believe that life is enjoyed by the minute. The other day, while sitting next to my boyfriend in the car, driving past Victorian houses in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury at night, I realized that I have already gotten so much more out of my life than I could have ever hoped for as a teenager. I don’t need to know what the greater meaning of my life is, I am creating my own meaning. And that’s the thought that helps me sleep at night…

I am enough.

Today, I got really inspired by this article on things that happen when you live abroad.  It talks about the growth you undergo when taking a leap of faith and starting completely afresh, about how much of a personal challenge it can be and how it can help you define yourself. But the post also mentions the inner division that many people undergo when they settle for a new country, how there is always a certain feel of longing to go back to where they came from and that it’s quite difficult to find that inner balance between holding on and letting go.

The article really got me thinking and made me reflect on my current situation. I am very much in the process of finding myself. I have a great household that I am happy to come home to but they actually all have a life and I don’t (yet, we’ll talk again next week after classes have started). So, I am on my own a lot. I explore on my own, I search for my running paths on my own, I have to find friends on my own and make certain decisions based on my own judgement.
I don’t know about you guys but I have a big problem with that! I tend to not give myself the appropriate amount of credit, I don’t trust myself to be capable of much and I usually doubt that I am a worthy competition in anything. But back at home, I wasn’t forced to really tackle any of those fears. I had a routine going on, I had my niché, my friends, my place in life. Now I’m here and suddenly, there is just me. That’s a really weird feeling. Out of a sudden, I have to ask myself what I want, how I should approach the day, the month, this year and there is no one there but me to answer these questions. I am not lonely but I am on my own, there is a difference and I am currently learning and embracing it. Sure, one of my big plans for this year was challenging myself and starting all over again, closing a chapter and being completely open to the new one. Exciting, exciting and scary. What if I am not enough? What if my own resources are not gonna get me where I want to go to? If there is no one but myself responsible for the next steps, there is no one else but myself to blame for failure.
It’s quite nerve-wracking but I also feel how, even only after a week, I have become more trusting in myself, a little more so each day. It’s nice for a change not to center my day around other people but only around myself. To ask myself how I feel about things and, not being able to take the easy way out (aka “Oh, I dunno..what do you think?”). Being challenged by having to listen to myself in order to change things that don’t make me happy. And, in contrast, to embrace if I have achieved something great.
So, here are some small things I started doing in order to get into a happy relationship with myself (it’s ok if you think I went a little cray-cray….half my housemates are into Zen, it’s rubbing off):

  • In the morning, I get up, look into the mirror and say something nice to the tired, confused reflection that stares back at me. Things like: “Wow, look at your tan!” “Today is going to be a great day!” or “I think we deserve ice-cream for breakfast
  • Whenever something I did works out fine, I actually tell myself out loud (Warning! Weirdo-alert, maybe just mumble when in public…). I think it’s important to actively acknowledge the good things that happen over the day.
  • Seek the sun. Depending on your location, that might be harder or easier but there will always be some sort of bar with a fake palm tree and hawaiian music nearby. Or something along those lines.
  • Music- sing along as loud as you dare and if it’s only for one song. We all have the inner child inside of us, let it out!
  • When something goes wrong or unexpected, breathe and hesitate for a moment before acting. Ask yourself if the reaction you were about to unleash onto yourself or others is appropriate.
  • Before going to bed, look into the mirror again and either acknowledge the great things you did today or encourage yourself that tomorrow is going to be better.

So, bottomline: Starting over puts one thing into the center of your life: YOURSELF! Yes, that might be uncomfortable or unknown or scary but I believe it really is necessary. We spend so much time thinking about others and ourselves in relations to our surroundings that we tend to forget that no relationship is as important as the one we have to ourselves. Sadly though, that’s the connection we are most sloppy with. I am not saying we all should become hermits or say Screw It and move away. Heck, I can’t wait to make friends and build a social life but I am glad that I have this time to myself to realize that I am enough.