But you’re always happy..

 

There is something that happens when you begin to share your journey on a large scale with an audience whether it be through a blog, social media, Youtube, or any other online platforms. When we open up and become vulnerable with our past hardships and struggles and how we overcame them, we have a chance to sugar coat the story with hindsight, distance and almost a narrator’s perspective. Even when we share the pain, it tends to sound beautiful and meaningful.  Part of being a powerful voice and sharing your life to inspire others is the fine line of how to be open with present struggles and difficult times in your life without encroaching on your own clarity, experience or privacy.

Social media, for even the most vulnerable and open people, is meant to be a highlight reel. We get to choose what we share and what we don’t. “But you’re always happy.” False. I show you my optimistic positive self because that is who I aim to be but that does not mean I’m happy 24/7. It is extremely unattractive for people to complain and vent negatively on their social media. It is sad to see people’s private lives and matters thrown all over media outlets or Facebook and Instagram. Luckily, with the gift of creativity and inspiration, we slowly learn what pulls on our heart to share and what we know is too fragile or too personal.

I try to be an open book. It’s how I am in person and basically the only way I know how to be. I can’t lie- I feel as if I have been cheating on my writing. Ever since I have started using Facebook Live consistently to speak about topics weighing on my mind and answering questions from clients, friends or my social media circle- I’ve found it hard to write my weekly headspace. No matter who you are, how inspired you feel, how many podcasts and self-help books you are reading- we all run out of material. I read a great blog post from a friend of mine reminding me of this right when I needed to hear it. So, I feel compelled to write this.

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Bali Livin: Footloose and Fancy-free

As an American when I thought about Bali, it seemed like a far off distant Neverland that could only be dreamed about or pinned on Pinterest. When I moved to Thailand I truly had no idea that I would explore South East Asia so much while I was there. I quickly realized that I absolutely had to take advantage of being on this side of the world therefore any chance I got to explore a new country I took. After many separate groups of teacher friends made their way to Bali after our first semester in Thailand, I knew I had to make it happen. Just like that Jackie, Maggie and I booked our flights and convinced our friend Brittaney to come along with us. (Not that it took much convincing). We got tons of advice from friends which made planning our trip relatively easy. We also agreed to remain extremely flexible in our plans by only booking our first hotel. We started our Bali adventure in Ubud, which is north of the airport near the center of the island. Ubud is known for its rice fields and amazing scenery. I will tell you a little secret…Ubud is the best kept secret of BalI! We expected to spend a night or two, do some outdoorsy stuff and then head straight for the beaches. We were absolutely captivated by this town the moment we stepped foot in it. It was so quaint and interesting, with brick sidewalks and tree lined streets full of shops, cafes, spas and art galleries. There was a huge cultural influence woven into the streets due to the temples and ancient architecture still standing but converted into hotels, businesses and restaurants. It was a whirlwind experience and we ended up staying a few extra nights to soak up as much Indonesian culture as we could. Must sees if you are traveling to Ubud:

Monkey Forest– A short walk from the action of downtown Monkey Forest is a nature reserve and temple swarming with wild monkeys. They can be vicious (one bit Jackie & stole her sunscreen from her bag) or they can be very loving (at least 3 climbed on my head and gave me high fives). I think it just depends on the monkey vibes you give off. Clearly, there has to be part monkey in me somewhere.

 Sunrise at Mt. Batur– We woke up at 2 am and took a painfully winding ride to the bottom of the active volcano Mt. Batur. We proceeded to hike 1,716 meters up this volcano in the freezing cold and pitch black. Maggie was the ultimate trooper and completed the hike in FLIP FLOPS! On top of the volcano watching the sunrise above the fog is one of the most vivid memories I have of the trip. I felt like I was on top of the world. The hike down the volcano slowly brought us back to reality but that is the way things go with traveling, you gotta take the good with the bad.

A Coffee Plantation– Bali is known for its coffee and this made me ecstatic after suffering for a year with instant coffee in Thailand. We got the chance to visit a coffee plantation and taste test about 10 different types of coffees and teas. The most famous coffee was called Luwak Coffee. It is made by feeding the coffee beans to an animal, a Lombak, and waiting for them to poop it out. The bean ferments in their stomach and then it is roasted normally. It is casually referred to as “Shit coffee”. Jackie and I had to try a cup and it was honestly delicious. Good luck finding some in the states because it supposedly costs 50$ a cup!

Authentic Scenery- We had so many friendly tour guides/cab drivers who took us on excursions off the beaten path. It was incredible to explore the rice fields and secluded neighborhoods of Indonesia. I can picture the narrow roads in my head and I hear the ONE Indonesian song playing…that lasted about 25 minutes….and was on every time we got into a car. Nonetheless, it was magical scenery and so different than what you picture when you hear “Bali”.

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March Madness Final Round: America takes Thailand

It was such an awesome feeling returning “home” to Thailand. I really shouldn’t put that in quotes… this has been my home for the past 6 months and a wonderful one at that. It felt so great to be able to speak Thai again (no matter how little I actually speak), use baht, and feel comfortable with my surroundings. Not only was I home in Thailand but 3 short days later five of my closest friends from college were coming to visit me from America! Although I could not contain my excitement I also felt like my body just had been hit by an 18-wheeler. Over a month of backpacking will do that to ya. Luckily, I had two days to go back home to my quiet town of Suphanburi to unpack, do laundry, sleep, exercise and repack just to head right back out the door. Those two detox days were crucial to my survival for the rest of the trip. Not only did I have over two weeks left, I also had to play tour guide for 5 people who had never been to Thailand before! I needed to be on my game!

Waiting for them at the airport was one of the most nerve-racking, exciting sensations I have had in a while, and with all of my experiences lately, that is saying a lot. I knew their flight was delayed but when I got to the airport I had no way of contacting them. The flight board wasn’t updated yet when I got there and was on the opposite side as the arrival gate. Even when they landed their phones wouldn’t work internationally, so I just had to good old fashion wait. I made a little paper sign with an inside joke from college, “Wake up it’s Thailand time to pawty!”.

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The Mad Ones

As the school year in Thailand is winding down, it is time for final reviews, exams and projects. Teachers can understand and commiserate that during this busy time of the school year personal reading and/or writing for pleasure become exponentially more attractive. Some may define this as  “procrastinating”. Okay, everyone defines this as procrastinating… but I can’t help it and I promise I still get my work done on time! We had a long weekend for the Buddhist holiday a few weekends ago (which happened to fall on Valentine’s Day). Jackie, Erin and I decided to visit our close friend Kevin who we went to WVU with. He teaches at a university about an hour away from us and we have heard countless stories about his town and living situation. It was something we couldn’t leave Thailand without experiencing first hand. It turned out to be an absolutely comical weekend, filled with lots of wine, whiskey, stares from locals, delicious food, rap/guitar/harmonica freestyles, heart to hearts, moped rides and tons of laughs. Since our backpacking trip we have gone on several other weekend trips to close by cities such as Bangkok and Ayutthaya and spent weekdays grading papers, teaching, working out and trying to get back into a routine to make life feel “normal” again. We often discuss and marvel at the fact that we live and teach in Thailand. It is still mind blowing some days. It is absolutely incredible how quickly human beings can adjust and morph into members of a new group of friends, community, and even a country. In my day to day life, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick out things that are “different” than life in America. Of course when I think about it, the list goes on forever but for right now this is my stomping ground and I am becoming very comfortable with that.

Here are some highlights from the past month. They prove to be a hilarious balance between “Teecha Susie” life and 20-something Traveler Susie life.

Sensation White– My Suphanburi teacher crew (who have quickly become my close friends and traveling partners) and I went to a world famous music festival in Bangkok. It started in Amsterdam but has spread to all different countries around the world. It was an awesome experience with famous DJ’s from all over the world, a “wicked wonderland” theme, and of course an endless sea of people dressed in white. It felt great to dance the night away with my girlfriends. Oh, and of course eat Mexican food in Bangkok. Any chance we have to eat good Mexican food is an instant burrito party.

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Field trip to Ayutthaya– The English Program took a fieldtrip to Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, and had the privilege of having our M-2 (8th grade) students be our tour guides. Each foreign teacher got a group of 3 or 4 students and they led us around the temples, historical landmarks, and museums for the day while spouting off more facts than I could possibly process. My group was absolutely adorable and I learned so much. I loved all of the ghost stories they told me and found out that Thai people have many tales about ghosts that are passed on from generation to generation.  Field trips in Thailand are NEVER disappointing!

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College besties booked their trip to Thailand – Some of my best friends from college finally bit the bullet and booked their flights to Thailand in April. I am SO EXCITED to play tour guide and already made a color-coded itinerary for our jam-packed 10 day adventure! I am blessed to have such great friends who are willing to trek half way across the world to see me! Love you guys! It’s going to be EPIC!

Kasetsart University trip– As I said before this was a hysterical weekend with too many laughs to count. It reminded me how important good friends are and no matter WHERE you are, the company you keep is what matters the most! ❤ Love you guys! ImageImageImageImageImage

Thailand’s National Storytelling Competition– One of my favorite students made it to the national storytelling competition that took place in Bangkok. We have been practicing her story since October so she asked me to come along and watch her at the grand finale. It took place in a huge convention center with thousands of people and I could count on two hands the number of foreigners who were in attendance. There were also political protests going on right across the street and everyone seemed extremely casual about it(I was slightly freaking out). All in all, it was awesome day chalk full of Thai culture, shopping, and bonding with my student & coworkers. She took home 6th place overall and absolutely rocked her story. I am so proud of her!

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First Suphanburi FC Football match– Personally, I never understood other countries fascination with soccer (football). I never played in high school and I only followed it on TV when it was the World Cup. When I first moved to Suphanburi I heard that we had a professional football team that was very talented and well followed. My crew and I decided to attend the first match of the season since some of them will be moving away from Thailand after this semester. Let’s just say… I GET WHY PEOPLE LOVE IT! It felt like a college football game at WVU!Despite the fact that we were the only 5 white girls in a stadium full of locals…The whole town was decked out in orange and blue jerseys, and cold beers, and food vendors were everywhere. The whole shabang! It was SO fun, despite Suphanburi FC’s loss; they definitely gained a group of new loyal fans! GO SUPHAN!

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Birth of my nephew Samuel Benjamin Bell – My nephew was born yesterday (2/24/14) weighing in at 8 lbs. 2 oz. and he is just as adorable as his older sister, Layla. I am so happy for my big brother and sister-in-law! Being an Aunt is one of the best jobs around and I can’t wait to spoil this little guy. I am definitely extremely sad that I can’t be there to meet him, hold him, and spend time with my family but I am grateful for technology and looking forward to getting to know him once I return to America! I can hear myself telling my niece and nephew stories of my adventure in Thailand when they grow up. I hope to instill a wanderlust in them and the confidence to follow their dreams, no matter how radical they may seem. Sending lots of love your way lil Sam & Bell fam!

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With a little over a week left of the first semester, I am looking forward to my summer break while simultaneously marveling at how quickly time passes us by. “The days are long, but the years are short”, ain’t that the truth! There have been many moments of nostalgia, culture shock, despair, excitement, joy, fascination, realization, stimulation, longing, and frustration in the past four months.  I have grown so close to my friends I have met here, and joined in a mutual “teacher/foreigner/American/20-something” bond that feels as if I have known them forever. As I write this I am reminding myself how incredible my life is here and how lucky I am to have the chance to enrich my mind, body and spirit in the Land of Smiles. The month of March will be an extremely exciting one as my travels will lead me to Vietnam and Cambodia with the crew. Then, my WVU friends will join me in this amazing country in April. Many thrilling stories and photos to follow! I’ll leave you with a final thought that continues to drive my actions, mind and life,

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”- Jack Kerouac

Here’s to finding the mad ones! Here’s to the ones who truly believe anything is possible! We gotta stick together! Cheers! Xoxo 

I’m dreaming of a Thai Christmas

Thinking of the holidays brought about melancholy feelings. Paired with the loss of a good friend from college, I have been battling some serious sadness the past week or so. I honestly feel guilty when I feel sad in Thailand because I am so appreciative of my life here. I love my job, I love my students, I love my new friends who already feel like family, but I can’t help but think of my family and friends back at home especially during Christmas time. I think of those who have lost their loved ones, like my friend Steve’s family and all of our WVU friends and my friend Corey, her parents and our whole Bishop Ludden community. I feel blessed to be healthy and happy, even if I am on the other side of the world. I am happy to be alive, young, and too naïve or too wise to be jaded. I am also happy because I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the food, the cheer, the giving, the family time, the music, etc. I could keep going. I’m basically Buddy the Elf Junior!

Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine not sharing such a special day in the “traditional” way. But last year I got some practice in spending Christmas in a “non-traditional” way. I spent Christmas in Hawaii with my boyfriend and his family. It definitely was not traditional but it was still incredible. I will remember Christmas night at the Royal Hawaiian for the rest of my life. I sat with Yale, Izaak, Zach and Krista all dressed up and in awe of my surroundings. The scenery was breathtaking with palm trees and warmly lit lanterns everywhere. We went around sharing what we were thankful for this Christmas. Yale went first and I was blown away by his comments. He isn’t exactly the mushy, sentimental type but his words were so honest and heart felt he set the bar high. We each took a turn sharing and I realized in that moment that Christmas isn’t about where you are or how you celebrate. Christmas is different for every family. Some Christmas’ are fancy and over the top, some are spent working, some are spent overseas in the war, and sadly, some are spent alone. Christmas in the end is just one day. The real message and meaning behind Christmas is one that we should carry with us and remember all throughout the year.

 Not only should we be grateful for what we have, but also we must remember that giving is truly the best manifestation of humanity that we possess. In the words of my good friend Dave Matthews,  “When you give, you begin to live, you get the world, you get the world…” And giving doesn’t have to mean material objects and gifts. Giving your heart, your love, your laughter, your time, or your understanding is more meaningful than anything you can buy or wrap or make.  As cheesy and cliché as it is, “the best things in life are free”, couldn’t be more true.

This year was probably the best Christmas of my life and oddly enough I was absolutely dreading it. I woke up at about 5:30am and opened three packages from my parents, my boyfriend and his family. I began to cry when I read my boyfriend’s Christmas card. I loved every single gift but the card was by far my favorite. He captured the meaning of our love and Christmas so well and I felt so proud because he does not enjoy expressing his emotions through words. He says that’s my job! Once I opened everything I went on a Facetime rampage talking to my parents, Yale & his family, and my brother & niece. I was so happy to talk to them and it made me feel like they were right there in my room with me. Since I know you are reading this right now, I love you all to the moon and back. Thanks for making me feel so loved.

When I got to school I was happy to see a huge Christmas assembly being set up! All the teachers from the Foreign language department were decked out in head to toe Christmas outfits from Santa Clause to reindeers, elves and everything in between. We belted out “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” even if it was terribly off key. Jackie and I spread Christmas cheer through our office and to our students by passing out Christmas cookies, candy and pencils! Then our friends who teach on the other side of our school (non-english program) invited us to come see the Christmas festivities they were putting on.

We jumped on the opportunity and stepped out of Thailand and straight into Santa’s workshop! There were decorations everywhere and even a whole classroom transformed into a pseudo photo booth with costumes and festive backgrounds to take pictures. Jackie & I spent a good thirty minutes in there with all the students taking hilarious pictures. As if the day couldn’t get any better we got to watch part of the talent show/Christmas singing competition put on by the students. It was so cute to see the Thai students singing and dancing to our traditional Christmas tunes. I initially was upset that we had to come to work on Christmas but I truly wouldn’t have had half as wonderful a day if it wasn’t for my school! After school we decided to keep up with our Insanity regime and burn off a few of those Christmas cookies we had for breakfast. Finally we ended our Christmas day by going out to dinner with our American crew of teachers. We had a little Chinese gift exchange, a bottle of wine (each haha) and tons of Thai food. It was delicious and hilarious and even though I was thousands of miles of miles away from my family, my home, and snow, I felt so merry, bright and Christmasy. We definitely celebrated in a non-traditional manner, but it reminded me that Christmas is a lot like life. You can’t try to confine and define it, you must accept it as it is and be grateful for what you have. Comparing your life or Christmas to a status quo is poisonous to their true meaning.  

I can honestly say, I had one, if not THE best Christmas of my life even if it was 85 degrees, I had to work, I wasn’t with my family and I was in a predominately Buddhist country 14,000 miles from home. Thanks to technology I even got to see and speak to the most important people in my life. As much as our society depends and relies on technology and as much as I bitch and complain about technology taking over, today I am truly indebted to technology. I am so happy and blessed to have seen the smiling faces of my loved ones on Christmas. I am so happy to see their facial expressions, their Christmas trees, their eggnog, and their furry friends. I am so happy to hear them say “I love you”, hear their laughs and look into their eyes. If I could write a love letter to whoever created video communication I totally would. Thank you for making my Christmas complete!!

After a pep talk from one my best friends Krohl, I feel very inspired to write. His enthusiasm about reading my blog made my heart smile. I love to hear that you enjoy sharing my experience because it connects us even if we are worlds away. I hope that every one enjoyed their Christmas as much as I did. I hope you remember how lucky you are. I hope I never forget how happy I feel in this moment. Tomorrow I am leaving for a 3 week backpacking trip all over Thailand and I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present to myself. I am going to write in good ol’ fashion journal for the extent of the trip and then update my blog when I return! Don’t forget about me while I take a break from the digital world 😉 I promise to have tons of adventure tales when I return! I hope we all carry the Christmas spirit with us today and always and remember giving, laughing and loving is the best medicine in the universe! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Cheers! ❤ xoxo

 

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My Thai Thankstory

I wanted to begin this post “ The root of travel and adventure is…” and then I typed about 50 different phrases and furiously deleted them. I am a very fluid style writer and I often do not change one thing until I reach the end. I couldn’t pin point the root or the heart of travel or adventure while simultaneously representing my infatuation with it. I ask you my fellow writers, readers, friends, family… what is the root of travel and adventure for you? Why do vastly different people love to travel so much? How do we seek new horizons but still value and nurture the people who helped us create our past?  

If you asked me today, about adventure  I would immediately think of my latest adventure to the tropical island of Ko Samet in the Gulf of Thailand. I would immediately feel thankful for adventure. My students went to “Scout Camp” last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday so I didn’t have any classes to teach. Our boss told us we still needed to report to school normally and use those days to plan. Mid-day Wednesday, he told us that we might get a holiday on Friday and possibly even Thursday after a brief staff meeting. Only in Thailand would a holiday from school be so nonchalant. In this instance, I was not complaining.

Next thing I know its Friday afternoon and I am on a bus to Ban Pae, a coastal town about 3 hours east of Bangkok. We booked a hostel there and would take the ferry to Ko Samet in the morning! Wait…what? I shit you not, this is how randomly this adventure came about. It was the best surprise ever. The second we left the dock and the ocean was all around me I began to consciously remind myself how lucky I was to be there. When you consciously remind yourself to be thankful proactively instead of retroactively it heightens your experience 10 fold. The weekend was full of sandy beaches, coconuts, whiskey, beer, snorkeling, boat rides, swimming in the ocean, hookah, wasabi pea eating contests, and relaxing on the beach. I was finishing up my latest read The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I love reading on the beach but finishing this emotional account of fictitious Vietnam stories made me feel guilty for how good I felt…young, free, and careless on the beach.  But O’Brien’s words resonated with me,

“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” 

I should not feel guilty for enjoying myself. I am honoring the stories from the past and making them a part of my present and future.  I am writing stories of my own so that I can be a part of the future. That gives me an overwhelming sense of power and a duty to represent my generation, my family and myself in a positive and genuine manner. Hopefully this blog is my first step in doing just that!

We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather all day Friday and all day Saturday on the island. But Sunday morning we woke up feeling fragile and facing a 40 minute monsoon…right at check out.  No umbrellas, a few injuries from the weekend shenanigans made traveling 8 hours home seem like a punishment for how amazing our trip was.  But nothing could take away the afterglow of island bliss. Thailand is simply amazing and Ko Samet reminded me how lucky I am to be a part of it. 

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This week at school has flown by and I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching my students about Thanksgiving. Jackie and I had them create hand turkeys and write five things they are thankful for. Of course we had to first teach them what turkeys were, Thanksgiving, and what thankful meant. Almost every single student wrote they were thankful for their teachers. The best part is that I actually believe them. One child’s hand turkey stands out to me, it was very typical at first but the last one through me for a loop, “my bed”. So simple, yet so heartbreaking, especially because I walk by shacks, apartments, store fronts every single day and see little children sleeping on the ground on paper-thin mats or wooden benches. I often create stories for them in my head, and carry them along with me as a travel. All apart of the things we carry. When you have very little, you are reminded what is truly important. You are reminded the abundance of people, luxuries, and experiences each and every one of us have to be thankful for. 

 Today is Thanksgiving Day in Thailand, I am at school and it feels like any typical day. My American friends and I made makeshift turkey treats to pass out to our office. We will watch Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with our ninth graders and will be teaching our 7th graders the “Five Little Turkeys” song. We decided to have our own “Thanksgiving Dinner” tonight at one of our favorite local restaurants. We invited all of the American teachers that live in our apartment complex so it will make 12 of us. We will all bring wine and definitely will eat well (although we won’t have turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy or anything remotely close). I already informed the crew that we must go around and say what we are thankful for (Momma Sus comes out where ever I am). I set up Skype dates with my family at their Thanksgiving celebration and also my boyfriend’s family. Not only is it Thanksgiving but it is also my boyfriends birthday today (November 28). I want more than anything to squeeze him and take him out for celebrations but I have a surprise planned I hope he loves. I would do anything to make him feel how special he is to me and how thankful I am he is mine. 

Being so far away at a time that is all about family, friends and togetherness is in no way easy but it truly is teaching me what the holiday is about. When I try to explain Thanksgiving to my students or my coworkers from Australia, Thailand and China I picture my Aunt Shelly’s house and everyone running around the kitchen drinking homemade beer and wine, laughing, dancing, and Aunt Shirl cooking up a storm. I hear my Noni’s Norwegian prayer swaying softly in my ears(even if we botch up the words). I can’t even think about how damn good the food tastes or I will slobber on my keyboard.  

But most of all I tell them, it is a day to truly celebrate and appreciate everything you have, no matter if it is 10 feet in front of you, across a few continents or no longer in the physical world. My friends and family at home, I encourage you to be extra thankful this year for being able to celebrate with people you love… Don’t take for granted those precious moments with your siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, lovers and friends. Those moments are what Thanksgiving is about. Those moments are what life is about. Don’t let the hangover from TGE or the football distract from the essence of the celebration. Today (and everyday) I feel gratitude, I feel nostalgia, I feel love and I feel thankful.

I could travel the whole world 10 times over, but nothing can replace the bonds of love, support, laughter, and the feeling of home that the people I care about the most embody. For now I will take O’Brien’s advice, cling to the stories to link my heart and mind to the past and the future and I will take my own advice for the present and be thankful proactively instead of retroactively. It’s a good day to be an American, a Mountaineer, a Bell, a Donovan, a girlfriend, a friend, a traveler and a teacher, wherever you may be. Happy Birthday to “That Guy” I love the most & Happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful you are a part of my story. 

Cherish Every Day

                  Happy Halloween from Thailand! Although fall is one of my favorite seasons with all of the fun festive activities and (usually) cooler weather, fall also brings back some of the hardest memories and ones that are the closest to my heart. Yesterday was the seven-year anniversary of my best friend Corey’s death. I was only 15 and in 11th grade when it happened and it turned my whole world upside down. My group of friends, classmates and community went through more grief than anyone should ever have to face. Thankfully, we came out stronger in the end and I know that because of Corey’s life and legacy I am more compassionate, understanding, selfless, and I especially have learned to “Cherish Every Day”. If I am having a bad day or being pessimistic I have a tattoo to remind me with that simple poignant phrase and Corey’s initials.

                   Since most of my friends and family are on the east coast of the States, I began to experience October 30th before anyone else. Seven years may seem like a long time, but just seeing that date on the calendar turns my stomach into knots. I try to remember her beautiful smile, laugh, goofy personality, and our countless inside jokes but the date brings me back to that dreadful day in 2006 and I relive each step of it. Now, it feels more like a bad dream than anything else. The day has a hazy quality to it and most of the experiences feel as if they were in slow motion. I also feel like my memories of the day are not from my perspective but rather from an outsider looking in on myself. I remind myself to be positive and know whole-heartedly that her spirit is always with me, but I think it is important to remember the pain.

                    Pain is unfortunately one of life’s greatest teachers and without it we cannot appreciate the good in life and we cannot change. The pain I felt after loosing my dear friend has guided me and given me purpose in life. Her belief in me while she was here on earth has not diminished. I feel her spirit pushing me to help others, to listen, to talk and give advice, and to be open to what life has to offer me. I received a voicemail from her the night before she died and one line rings in my ears, “You have so much potential, don’t waste it”. Sometimes it is a quiet whisper, and sometimes it is an angry shout. For most, this isn’t groundbreaking advice and may be words you’ve heard before, but to me…they are a final message of encouragement and obligation to someone who I love very much.

                My day at school yesterday was quite normal. After school Jackie and I went shopping and exploring in our town. We ventured to our local shopping mall where nearly everything is written or spoken in Thai. As we walked past one store I did a double take (why I don’t know) and saw a small sign over a display of shoes, the only English letters or words in sight “CMC”, Corey’s initials. I smiled and lingered for a second just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. I felt at ease the rest of the day knowing that Corey will follow me wherever I choose to explore.  Seven years ago my three best friends and I chose to read this E.E. Cummings poem at Corey’s funeral, and have it engraved on special necklaces that we all have.  The words gave us so much comfort then and for me, even more so now. Corey lives on in the hearts of all that she met and even many who never knew her but were touched by her story. If you know Corey, I hope you find comfort in these words and purpose in her honor. If you don’t I hope you are reminded of the power of kindness, the vulnerability of human beings, the reality of mental illness and the everlasting quality of the human spirit. All that we touch and see in this world, and especially the people we meet, should be cherished, nurtured and celebrated.   I intend to do just that.

i carry your heart with me BY E.E. CUMMINGS

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart) i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet) i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

 here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

 

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