On Golden Pond

IMG_5704I am wrapping up a month-long sabbatical of self-reflection fitted in with two quick nature-filled trips to Tahoe and Point Reyes. At this point, I must first reference a New York Times article, “The Meaningfulness of Lives,” I alluded to six years ago. I want to do the things I used to love so passionately, like tennis, dancing and even writing (well, maybe not all at the same time) that seemed so superfluous when preoccupied with other stuff. I literally felt I couldn’t afford to invest in them because of self-preservation until I realize I couldn’t justify it anymore. My self-worth and a worthwhile life hang in the balance.

I’ve come to know that it’s not a matter of being morally superior or even over-the-moon happy. Rather, it is whether I am thoroughly engaging in something, and it may not always be so pleasant as I spent some of the month healing the wounds of past unfairness and indiscretions and confronting such basic impulses as the inability to relax and unplug. My sojourns to Tahoe, which I hadn’t visited in 17 years, and Point Reyes, where I had never been, put me in touch with some emotions I had ignored and wasn’t aware of–this was the time to push those to the surface and tackle them for as much as I could tolerate it, fully understanding they may crop up again. I am human after all.

As my friend Angela had eloquently chimed in when rain and later hail descended on the lake, “Sometimes rain is best because people scatter, and you can enjoy a moment of solitude in beautiful nature.” Driving in a canopy of firs, cruising on a riverboat from Zephyr Cove to Emerald Bay, hiking street level toward the edge of Lake Tahoe, my mind was empty in a Zen-like state I may have never known existed. It was that deep.

On the eve of a new job and chapter and the cusp of Autumn, my favorite season of the year when things come into fine focus, I am of this mindset: There will be parts of my journey that remind me it’s so much bigger than me; but I have an active role to carve out space and bring meaning to bear on my life that I promised will be one well lived.

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A Letter to My Younger Self

Lil Rachelle in Ilocos Sur, Philippines

In a few years, you would fly on a TWA airliner to join your parents in the United States, rather sad, dare I say even upset, that you would be leaving your beloved great-grandmother, Lucia, who took care of you in your mother’s absence.  But when you were on the plane, you somehow had this idea that you were embarking on a great adventure, and later, you learn there is even a moniker for it–citizen of the world–one that you would feel aptly describes the role you were supposed to step into when you left the Philippines for good.

You would hit the books most of your life in your hometown of Pittsburgh, PA until your twenties, when you would spend most of the years after college having roommates and misadventures and working in your dream job in a city you weren’t completely sold on, even taking it for granted, until it’s 20 years later, and you’re still here. Many times you would want to quit San Francisco, but you just couldn’t quite pull the trigger.

You would fall in love before you turn 30 and lose your job and man in one year.  But you would travel to Paris at the end of the year with a ragtag band of your two sisters and two of your friends from high school and college, so that you would return to San Francisco, not only tinged with sorrow,  but also the joie de vivre of that magical city.  You would clean up after the party you had in your twenties and start figuring out in your thirties how you would want the rest of your life to look like.  Your Paris gave you the spirit, and you would try to recapture and infuse it.  You would tell people what you don’t want.  The things you would love most–music, writing and your family and friends–are your saviors.

You prepare for your forties so that you become the entire package.  You tell people what you do want and who you are for someone to meet you at that similar place–one who will love, recognize and accept you for who you’ve become at this point in time.  You learn to love and take care of yourself more passionately.  You’re less selfish, kinder and more forgiving.  You see the difference between falling in love, being in love and love itself, which means sacrifice, stretching and enlarging one’s heart for someone else, putting their needs before yours, compromise and attention (qualities that by and large characterize your parents’ own marriage of currently 44 years that while for years you promised yourself you would never want, is essentially a verity you’ve come to accept and maybe even embrace).

You believe true love will find you because you have a better understanding of what it is, not simply the romantic notions that spring from pop songs and Hollywood movies, but also the changing faces of the moon in shadows and light, shades of gray, cyclical endings and beginnings that test one’s faith in whether it could ever be sustained.  For all the experience and wisdom you’ve gained, you haven’t really cracked most of life’s mysteries.  And that’s okay because your life still remains an unfinished work.

Wanderlust Back

Tea and Sympathy:  A stop at Chantal Guillon for macaroons with my foodie younger cousins.

Tea and Sympathy: A stop at Chantal Guillon for macaroons with my foodie younger cousins.

My cousins from Sacramento came to visit recently for a weekend, and while snacking on the most delicate macaroons in Chantal Guillon in Hayes Valley, our conversation turned toward our trips abroad and our divergent experiences.  I had a more romantic interpretation of being in Paris than my sister, and my cousin went to Europe with a study-abroad program.  Nonetheless, we agreed we would go again, and my other cousin has become more open to overseas travel.

It’s a test in patience to wait for one part of my life to catch up with another that is already established and for years dying to move forward.  I’ve wondered when I would ever give myself permission to want to travel again, since I still had to consider getting back on my feet work-wise.

Now I feel certain this is the moment to return to my natural inclination to see more of the world.  A job eventually becomes routine, and the past is forgiven.  Other aspects of my life need more attention, especially the things that are most important to me.  While perhaps more progress could still be made, the time for magical thinking and action can now take flight and soar.

Oltrarno square

Memorable Oltrarno square where I bumped into a Florentine Adonis during my last major trip in 2008.

Tongue Ties

I’ve always been meaning to learn a second language.  If not for journalism, I would have most likely majored in one, probably Spanish since I studied it for four years in high school.  Language itself is a fascination with me.  It reflects a culture, society and people into which their identities are wholly tied.  Without it, they are just a shell without meaning or understanding.   I don’t believe a classroom could teach me all that I need to know about another language.  More than likely it requires an immersion in another country or a native-speaking community.  But it is a start.