About Me

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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Reverb10, Day 10: The road less traveled by has more potholes...

The prompt for today is Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

The author of this prompt is: Susannah Conway

The wisest decision I made this year was leaving my home of almost six years on Prince Edward Island (PEI) to see more of the world, and pursue life dreams that have been floating in my heart and mind for some time. The physical journey west, meandering all over the country and reconnecting with friends was spectacular. Practically every day gave way to new insights and discoveries about the amazing north American continent, friendship, and myself. I travel well. Most of my life I have moved from place to place without much of a backward glance -- uprooting myself from one amazing home to embrace a new one with relative ease. This last move was different. While I knew in my heart that this move was meant to be with a certainty that only comes after a lot of prayers, the choice to leave PEI was, and continues to be the hardest decision I have ever made.

The interesting thing about leaving PEI is that it is the very things that have been toughest that have challenged me to grow in new ways. Having to let go of my closest friends and confidants has been the hardest part of leaving a community that I felt so deeply embedded in, but it was not the only challenge. I was very active in my religious community on PEI, and the activities that I was a part of had become an important part of how I defined who I was. Moving from a tiny island to an enormous Baha'i community, I found that many of my experiences, which were of value on PEI, are useless in a different context. Organizing and engaging community in a small rural area involved completely different dynamics than are necessary in a geographic area as enormous as Sacramento. Even my work experiences in the organic agriculture sector have seemed useless here given the larger, more intensive scale that people are farming on, and the completely different climate, soil, crops, and even social culture that exists in the farming community of northern California.

I have been in California now for eight months, and although they have been very tough months, I can already see, quite clearly, that I am changing and growing, I think in positive ways! I have had to come to terms with loneliness and isolation of a completely different kind than I experienced on PEI. Here I am surrounded by many people practically all the time, but I do not know many of them very well. I have had to learn to spend more time on my own, but I have also pushed myself to expand my social circle. It is a slow process, but I am developing new friendships and learning different ways of perceiving the world. I am learning to suspend judgment long enough to open myself to the possibilities and opportunities present in the Californian culture that would not be possible in Atlantic Canada. I am learning to move through my resistance to the lifestyle in California, and to find the beauty and diversity of experience that surrounds me when I allow myself to see it. Living in an urban culture that is so foreign to me is also helping me to clarify for myself the factors that contribute to building a lifestyle that I am happy with. Driving on six lane highways to get from place to place is helping me to realize that the pace of urban life in northern California is not going to work for me long term. I had not known that before arriving, so I am that much closer to finding a home for myself.

Since arriving, I have had to ask myself "what does it mean to be a Baha'i outside of the context of my community back on PEI?" Given the fact that change is inevitable, exploring how to embrace a life of service wherever I am is important. Exploring what I have to contribute to the community I am living in right now is helping me to learn flexibility and humility to degrees I had never before experienced! It is very often not comfortable. I often ask myself what value my life and skills have here in this community, but I am finding that the longer I remain present with the discomfort of not knowing, the more I seem to learn, and the more I have to contribute. Whereas I usually take the role of leader, here I am learning to accompany and support those who know the context better. Whereas I am usually outspoken, here I am learning to listen.

Lack of relevant work in the agricultural field has led me to start dedicating more time every day to my writing. I do not think I would have given my writing the time and attention I am currently giving it if I had been able to find full time work. It is disconcerting to have people ask me "what are you doing with your life?" or "have you found work yet?" on a daily basis, but it is forcing me to confront my own insecurities, and to gain confidence in saying "I am a writer." I would never have had the courage to pronounce those words before. Now, whether my writing is good or bad, it is really all I am doing on a daily basis, so when I say those words I know it is my truth, take it or leave it.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not miss PEI, or contemplate moving back. But I know that there has been wisdom in leaving what I love, and in staying away long enough to move through, rather than withdraw from my fears. I know at a very basic and profound level, that if I were to go back to PEI tomorrow, it would no longer be a retreat or a regression. It would be going forward.

One of my favourite poems is Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken. I have always pushed myself to take the road that seems like it will result in the richest experience of life. Although I would like to be gainfully employed, own a home of my own, be in a relationship, and feel like I had a place that I could call home for the rest of my life, I do believe that there is wisdom in the choices that I made last December that have led me to where I am standing today. I sometimes think that if Robert Frost had written his poem in 2010, he might have called it Unexplainable Journeys of a Nomadic Misfit. I am not sure where I am headed, but my intuition tells me that confronting my fears and challenging my own mental, spiritual and physical limitations will make all the difference. There may be more potholes, but potholes become puddles, and puddles reflect the sky (and more importantly, they are fun to splash around in, in rubber boots!)

What is the wisest decision you made this year? 

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