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.
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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

Reluctantly Vegan

Peeps, I know nobody said it was easy, but being vegan is really tough for me. It frustrates me because my boyfriend breezed through those 30 days, and here I am not even two weeks into it and already struggling. This morning, as I grabbed my vegan spreads from the refrigerator, there was my boyfriend’s mom’s smoked salmon right next to it… and goat cheese. COME ON.

If I didn’t have that stuff in my refrigerator, would life be easier? (Well probably, because it’d mean I’d have a place of my own.) I don’t know, really, I think the cravings would still be there.

Also, for three consecutive nights now, I had nightmares in which I was either at school (?!), out in the city, or at an assessment center (!!) trying to find some vegan food and failing, and just being so hungry and stressed. It really was no fun at all, and today I woke up frustrated and annoyed. Then the salmon and goat cheese temptation happened, and at breakfast I said to my boyfriend, “I don’t think I wanna be a vegan.”

“You don’t have to”, he said. “If you want, you can have some of that cheese.”

“No, I can’t. I promised I’d do this for 30 days. If you can do it, I can do it.”

“Okay then.”

“But… but I want cheese.”

“Well, maybe you’re just one of those people who can’t say no to those evil foods”, he said, knowing full well that hitting my conscience is pretty much the only thing even more effective than hitting my pride.

“Cheese is not an evil food”, I mumbled, but without great conviction. I know cheese production isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for cows, even though it’s not necessary to kill them in order to get the cheese (actually that would be kind of counterproductive, with the exception of rennet production, but that’s so gross I don’t even want to get into it).

Spoiler alert: I didn’t cheat. I ate my vegan breakfast and later my vegan lunch (which was actually delicious). Yet the cheese cravings didn’t go away, so I told myself I should maybe figure out where to get non-evil cheese from. And I did some research on milk production and dairy cows.

Another spoiler alert: Don’t do that unless you’re prepared to feel more than a little sick. I really had no idea about a lot of this, and I’m starting to think it may be easier to find meat from (formerly) happy animals than milk from happy cows. Really. Wow.

My cheese craving is not fully gone, but it’s definitely less than it was this morning. I realise there’s much I don’t know, and most of it I don’t know because in the past, I often chose not to be informed. I chose not to watch Food, Inc. or Earthlings, or any other documentary dealing with where we get our food from and what processes are involved. Why? Because I figured once I knew, it’d be tough to eat meat without a bad conscience.

Well, damn it, maybe that’s exactly what needs to happen. Because the more I realise how little I know about where my food comes from, the guiltier I feel. I can be informed, but I often choose not to, because it’s just way more convenient that way. Wouldn’t it be nice if I had no idea what I was eating? I mean not just in terms of animal cruelty, but also food additives and things like that. Wouldn’t it be nice if I went through life never wasting a thought on that? Too bad I started thinking about it… and I’m beginning to feel like there is no way back from that. So at least for the next two and a half weeks that are left of the challenge I’ll be, however reluctantly, vegan.

After that, who knows? I really cannot picture myself as a vegan full-time. I also really cannot see myself going back to never thinking about where my meat or my dairy comes from. My aunt has a few chickens and occasionally brings by a carton of eggs. I know those are happy animals, but does that mean that those eggs will be the only animal product I can eat? What am I going to do about my conscience? What about the fact that (damn it) I love the taste of cheese but I now know a whole lot about the dairy industry that makes me sick to my stomach if I think about it?

At this point, I’ve no idea what’s going to happen after day 30. I’m not an animal rights activist, I don’t believe all animals are smarter than us and I really just don’t see myself as one of those people that try to make others feel bad about what they’re eating. I just wanna be normal. But how can being normal entail shutting yourself off from a lot of really bad truths?

Any thoughts are much appreciated, of course – from vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians and omnivores alike 🙂

Thanksgiving

is the most amazing holiday ever established! This year, it was the first time in my life that I had ever celebrated it and I am absolutely in love. Think about it- it’s about the three Fs in life- friends, family and food. Honestly, what more could you want from a holiday? I even had the honor to celebrate Thanksgiving twice in two days- first with my adopted host-mom and her daughter in Santa Clara and the next day with my roommate and her amazing family in Oakland.

Then, something unexpected happened. In between cheering for a football team that I had never heard of and be swept away by the mouthwatering aromas filling the house, people were asked to name one thing they were thankful for this year. Imagine a table with 25 people, cousins and nieces and grandparents and moms and dads, all smiling cheerfully, each one of them emphasizing how thankful they were for being with their wonderful family during this special holiday. Then it was my turn. What was I thankful for this year? So many things popped into my mind instantaneously: Having made it to SF despite all obstacles. Having found a great group of friends really easily. Living with awesome, warm-hearted people. Having an amazing boyfriend who makes me incredibly happy. Getting good grades in my classes. Waking up to sunshine and 68°F at the beginning of December. Having the chance to live in a city as beautiful, magnificent and breathtaking as San Francisco. Being able to jog down to the Pacific Ocean. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone and, along the way, realizing that I am both capable of much more than I give myself credit for but also really loved. And, of course, being in CALIFORNIA for heaven’s sake, I mean..how many people dream of living in this state for a while at least once in their lives? And that’s what I ended up saying: “I am so thankful for being able to live my dream!”

But while I was sitting at the table, thinking about how fortunate I was, it finally happened: I got incredibly homesick for the first time since I had come here. Which was really the most awkward time to do so because, you know, we were having this jolly get-together and I was in a room full of strangers. I hastily blinked my tears away and indulged in the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce and sweet potato pie and tried to move on. But, although I could push it away that day, it still came back. This nagging feeling that something big is always going to be missing, no matter how happy the States would make me: My family. My crazy emotional mom who calls me 15 times within five minutes, just to “say Hi”. My dad, who is sending me recipes he always makes during Christmas time- his subtle way of saying he misses me and hopes that I will be having joyous holidays. My 20-year-old brother who is trying so hard to fill my place as the oldest sibling in the house. And, most of all, my 13-year-old baby brother who loves to record us karaoke-ing “Somebody that I used to know”, who comes into my room saying “If you have time, we could go biking but if you’re busy, I’m just gonna sit in your room and read” and who was trying really hard not to cry at the airport. My cousin, who is basically like a sister for me, with whom I can crack up about the most random things for hours and who amplifies my clumsiness to a point where lives are actually endangered. My grandparents, who figure out how to call me over Skype and spend ten minutes celebrating their triumph. My friends.

It’s ironic, really, how you can spend so much time desperately trying to get away from a place because it just seems too small for all the dreams you have in your head. So, here I am, in a new country, with so many amazing things happening in my life, being happy and having that feeling of belonging…but also realizing that it will never be whole. Because, no matter how happy a place makes you, it can never be perfect, unless it has the ones you love in it, all of them, the new ones and the ones you have loved a life time. I know that, no matter where I am going to live in the future, the grass will always seem greener at the other side of the pond. I have gotten to a point where I feel at home in several different places in the world and the people that matter to me will always be equally far spread out. And, most of the time, it’s enough to know that they are there, no matter how far away. Most of the time, I find it exciting not to know whether I’ll go back to Europe in a few months or in two years or in five, it makes me feel adventurous and tough and different. But just every once in a while, it would be good to know exactly when I’d see them all again. In person. To give them a huge hug and tell them how thankful I am for them.

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Meditation 101

My landlady (aka housemate aka hostmom) works for a Meditation Center in SF, which means she’s closely connected to the whole meditation culture. Now, being a good housemate trying to build common interests, I did not turn her down when she offered me meditation sessions. Awesome, I thought. I had always been curious on how to meditate and how to acquire a sort of calm mindset that can help you in so many everyday situations. Little did I know, that it is so much harder than it sounded:

05:36 am: My alarm clock rings. Since my meditation instructor (aka landlady aka housemate aka hostmom) has to go to work early every day, this is the time we wake up for our 20-minute session. I lie in bed and my slowly awakening mind is playing the blame game: “It is YOUR fault, that we are in this mess Ari, because of you we have to get up before dawn to go sit on a floor!!”Actually, it’s a cushion, not the floor“, I correct my tired mind.

05:39 am: I walk downstairs. My other housemate, who also got talked into trying the whole meditation thing, is already there. Sitting in the dark. Since we aren’t supposed to talk before or after the session, I don’t ask her about the darkness thing but just go and switch the light on. I see hectic hand gestures in my peripheral view suggesting that something is wrong. “No light!“, she whispers, trying to surpress a laugh attack. It’s just too absurd of a picture that we paint of ourselves here.

05:40 am: The little bell rings and meditation begins. From now until 6am, it’s just about me and my breathing, I’m supposed to push all thoughts away and just focus on my natural breathing flow. But also, I am sitting in the living room on a cushion in my PJs in the dark. Meditating. If my friends could see me, they would drag me home without further ado. Oh, but I’m not supposed to think about that, I should breathe now!

05: 42 am: Don’t laugh Ari, don’t laugh!! Deep breath!

05: 44 am: Oooooh my god!! Imagine I had to burp right now. That would be soooo awkwaar…no. don’t laugh!! Think of something sad like dead puppies or your mom…uh, good one, go me, sad that noone could hear it cause I’m thinking TO MYSELF!

05: 47 am: Ok, this is awkward- my leg is falling asleep!

05: 48 am: Like, really. It’s falling asleep.

05: 49 am: Maybe if I just wiggle my toes…?

05: 51 am: Ok, what could the worst possible damage be that I am doing to my leg right now…?

05: 52 am: Hmmm, I wonder what I should wear today. Also, should I go back to bed? I’m kinda really awake right now. In fact, I feel like my thoughts just got an espresso jump start. Too bad, I’m not supposed to thinkkkk…

05: 55 am: I could totally try this new hair style I found on youtube! Shouldn’t be too har…ok, STOP AND BREATHE!

05: 58 am: Actually, this isn’t too bad. I’m totally getting into my zen right now! I love breathing!!

06: 00 am: Time’s up. Great. Just when I stopped thinking and starting breathing. Of course….

Bottomline: Meditation is hard and requires a great deal of practice. But you also get better each time and after a few days, I didn’t even mind getting up that early anymore (ok, fine, I kinda do on days that I could have slept in until ten) because it’s a great way of slowly starting your day. And I still believe that it’s worth the practice- looking at my landlady, I can clearly see that mediation really helps her be calm and optimistic and real. So, I’m not giving up. If nothing else, I can tell my grand children that I meditated in San Francisco, and that’s kinda something, isn’t it?

Also, I joined my school’s surf club, so let’s see where this is gonna take me 🙂 More coming soooooon!

Peace, Love and Ice-Cream,

Ari