Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pre-Venezuela Thoughts: Bad Luck. Good Luck. Who Knows?

And now for some last minute thoughts and revelations before taking off to Venezuela. This time tomorrow I will be (hopefully) asleep in transit on an airplane to Caracas!!

To go off Rachel's blog post ( on grey space, so few things in life are an immutable, static black or white. I think some things in life are black and white, but can easily fade to grey, which made me have a revelation, even if perhaps obvious. 

Nothing is constant. You think you have X job, but who's not to say you won't be offered a more appealing one or have a circumstance that requires you to relocate. Relationships..we won't even go there with the divorce rate now being well over 50%. And places..well this is really where it applied. I realized today how transient of a place Boston is and how much I truly love Boston for the place, not the people. The only other place this has happened is MN. You can't base how much you like/dislike a place on the people because those can (and will) change. Next year, most if not all the Fellows will be out of Boston, but what does Boston provide regardless of people? I am reminded of my other homes: Decorah where I loved the place and people, though will admit I could never live there now that the people are gone, Tanzania-where I didn't like the place and didn't know the people so it was a bad fit but certainly a wonderful experience, and Chile-a great place, but not my favorite people. 

All this makes me realize that perhaps the reason the whole "settling down" thing is appealing to so many, is this desire to have constants, and decrease the unknown (grey space). If I bought a house, were married, and had children, it would be pretty hard for the major building blocks of life as I know it to change. I heard a friend today said, "I really like where I'm at, my housemates and network I've built, but I'm sure something bigger and better will come." We as Americans certainly like this idea of "bigger and better." But may I posit is bigger always better? And is better always bigger? The way we think is very linear. A career path parallels a ladder, our life cycle and timelines are lines from beginning to END. This word causes so many problems because it is a fixed point, eliminates grey space, but also eliminates new possibilities. For some, this is a good thing because it allows one to raise a family in a stable environment. But for me, that sounds like "stuck," "trapped", or any other rooted word. The beautiful thing about the majority of life decisions is because there is no constant, you can change. You can change your job, significant other, friends, apartment/housemates, schools, and anything else that is not owned. But when you start to own a car, house, or have a life partner or child, these types of decisions are close to impossible to undo. Ideally, this would be a good thing because you love it/him/her, but I like the idea that I can make a mistake, learn from it, and alter my path if needed/desired. It makes decisions far less daunting (and goodness knows how good I am at making those) because I know I can change it if need be. 

Which brings me to my final revelation, which relates back to the mantra of you creating your own reality, or rather how you perceive your situation greatly affects your reality. Today I heard the two dichotomous words creeping up in conversation: "good" and "bad." We as humans or at least Americans love labels. "That was such a BAD decision." "I really made the RIGHT decision." But I want you to reflect on something that, at the time, you probably thought was a "bad" decision. I'm sure there was a post-rejection period from a job, crush, or other life opportunity where you didn't feel so great. But, then reflect on what happened after that, it could be a few months or years down the road, and it could be several. What opportunity presented itself that wouldn't have presented itself had that rejection not occurred? That second decision that you actually executed/experienced, was a "better" decision in that you were a better match for that position than the initial pursuit even if you desired that. It makes me think of a Zen story I heard a few weeks ago about a farmer. 

An old Zen story goes like this: An old Chinese farmer had a mare that broke through the fence and ran away. When his neighbors learned of it, they came to the farmer and said, "What bad luck this is. You don't have a horse during planting season." The farmer listened and then replied, "Bad luck, good luck. Who knows? A few days later, the mare returned with two stallions. When the neighbors learned of it, they visited the farmer. "You are now a rich man. What good fortune this is," they said. The farmer listened and again replied, "Good fortune, bad fortune. Who knows?" Later that day, the farmer's only son was thrown from one of the stallions and broke his leg. When the neighbors heard about it, they came to the farmer. "It is planting season and now there is no one to help you," they said. "This is truly bad luck." The farmer listened, and once more he said, "Bad luck, good luck. Who knows?" The very next day, the emperor's army rode into the town and conscripted the eldest son in every family. Only the farmer's son with his broken leg remained behind. Soon the neighbors arrived. Tearfully, they said, "Yours is the only son who was not taken from his family and sent to war. What good fortune this is..." 

If we write a decision/experience off as "good" or "bad", we usually miss the opportunity to learn, grow, challenge, and change. I challenge you, to see the growth opportunity next time a "bad" thing happens. Of course I am not stating there is no such thing as tragedy, catastrophe, or that everything happens for a reason. Only that, we can more fully live life to the fullest (and probably waste less time and hopefully fewer unproductive emotional states) if we take each thing in life as an opportunity. 

This is my mindset for the upcoming trip to Venezuela. No expectations. Only an opportunity to learn, question, grow, and hopefully with time, influence change on the US Sistema field as needed. 

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