What It Means To Be A Human

Written December 2014

What it means to be human.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what a blessing it is to be a human on this earth. The odds of being any other creature are pretty high. But you are reading this, meaning you are lucky enough to be a person (and probably an awesome one). I’m not sure anyone really knows what it means to be human, but these are my ideas.

Being human means understanding the beauty rooted deep in all places of this earth. It means being aware that you are just a visitor, and that you should respect the rest of whom and what you share this space with.

Being human means being intelligent enough to adapt to what’s around you. This ability is in you. Use it.

Being human means finding connections with other humans.

Being human means appreciating every type of environment. From soil to sand to dirt to gravel and all the way to hardwood and tile floors. Whether we are under a tree or a roof, we can’t ever forget where we started and how we got to where we are.

Being human means respecting each other and those we share the earth with. In Costa Rica, the love and respect that people have for nature is contagious. They recognize that we share this land, not just with other people, but with trees and sloths and snakes and spiders, and all in between. Being human should mean being humble, and not crowning ourselves entitled.

Being human means having the capacity to try new things, paired with the ability to decide whether we like it or not.

Being human means consuming so much knowledge at a rate where we should always want more.

Being human means taking advantage of our ability to travel the world and do all of the above. As people, we have this power to inspire and move and change and share and love and teach and create. With so much power, it’s easy to waste. Don’t.

Being human means knowing that every beginning has an end. But if there is sincerity in between, I hope I never regret it. At one point, every thing we had and every one we had meant something to each other, and in this life, that’s all we really seem to be looking for.

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Not Your Average Post-Grad

One hundred and sixty days ago, I reached a milestone of my life that only about 7% of people achieve: college graduation. Since May, every new acquaintance I make and every old friend I see has asked, “Where do you work?” or “What are you doing now?”

Here’s my problem with that. Why do people think that every college graduate’s success is measured by whether or not they have a full-time job lined up as soon as they toss that graduation cap in the air?

To start, shouldn’t we take some time to celebrate the giant success that is earning a college degree? Shouldn’t we be asking grads what they want to do with their life, not with their degree? Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe that finishing college is a major accomplishment to be immensely proud of. However, I also think that there is way more to my early twenties than competing for a job that secures my spot in a cubicle, likely next to a middle-aged someone who has been there since his or her own college graduation.

Again, don’t get me wrong. I will have a full-time job one day, and I will probably be starting in a cubicle. But it’s not going to be a job that I applied for just because society told me that it was supposed to be the next step in my life. It’s going to be a job that I want for myself; a job that makes me happy, that I earned, and that I love.

So, what do I say when people ask me where I work or what I’m doing now? Well. Where do I begin? Since college graduation, I discovered a new love for nature while hiking in the Alaskan mountains. I celebrated my birthday delivering letters to Senators’ offices on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., went on a road trip to upstate New York with my mom, prepared homemade lobster rolls in Maine, and attended my first Filipino opera. I also began training for a half marathon, assisted an event planner with a medical gala at Gotham Hall in New York City, and started teaching myself Korean.

“I’m just livin’,” I say. I’m doing things I love. I’m learning from others, and I’m teaching myself. I’m traveling. I’m reading books that I could never find the time to while in school. I’m finding ways to make and save money outside of the 9-5 confine. I’m spending time with people I care about. And I’m taking a step back from the pressure that seems to be pushing too many young professionals in directions that they aren’t even sure is right for them. Most importantly, I hope that I’m serving as a reminder that success doesn’t always have to come in the form of a resumè.

Life is a pizza pie

This past weekend, I met up with some friends in New York City where we had a mini Sevilla reunion.  I was so impatient and excited on the train ride into the city I found myself smiling while looking out the window, and all the way until I reached Herald Square, where I found them.  Initially I figured that everyone who passed me thought I was crazy, and then I remembered I was in New York City, and everyone is crazy.

When I saw them sitting in the sun in the middle of Broadway, my heart leaped and at that moment I knew my smile wouldn’t be going away for a while.  We spent the day reminiscing about the time we spent together while abroad, and we also spent it making new memories.

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Study abroad friendships are like no other.  And when I say no other, I mean no other.  These relationships form extremely fast and you learn whether or not you are able to trust a person very quickly.  They form so fast that withdrawal is often a symptom after separation.  Take for example a certain someone (No, not me.  But this is a true story.) who booked a one way flight to a certain somewhere across the country to visit a certain friend from abroad–and we’ve only been home for a month.

Hours of traveling and finding adventure together make it so that everyone’s life story is told at one point in the semester.  I know all about my abroad friends’ past and present relationships, friendships, families, school-life, and home-life.  I know about their schools, what they want in the future, who their celebrity crushes are, etc. etc.  With time, I get to know for myself what their comfort zones are, and breaking out of ours together is one of the best things about being abroad friends.  We grew, and continue to grow together, and towards each other.  From the first awkward introductions we had at orientation to the depressing goodbyes and sobs we shared on our last night together, it has been quite the ride.

If I were to tell the honest truth, sometimes I feel closer to my friends from Sevilla than I do to some of the friends I’ve had since I was ten.  The things a friendship goes through in Sevilla (abroad in general) are magical, and I couldn’t be happier to have these people in my life.

Spending 5 months in Spain, in a new unfamiliar city, with people who began as strangers has had a big impact on me.  It showed me just how quickly you can let someone in.  There were plenty unbelievable love stories about students who fell in love with locals; students who ended up changing their flight to stay longer, and locals who came to visit their significant others Stateside.  It’s incredible.  Until January 27th, I had no idea of the existence of these people who I now talk to on the daily–people who I couldn’t imagine my life without.  I’m so lucky.  To think that just a few months ago our paths had not yet crossed seems almost impossible.

   

Why impossible?  Well, impossible because the last few months would have been completely different.  Who knows if I would have been this happy if it weren’t for the people who gave me the reasons to be?  Once I got on the bus to the airport at the end of the semester, I knew that no one would know what I meant if I said “Ah-Pee”.  No one would accept the excuse “Sorry I’m on Spanish time” if I was late.  No one outside of our group would understand my craving for a jarra of tinto, or a Cruzcampo.  No one would know much of any of the things I wanted to talk about.

Someone I know who studied abroad warned me about coming home.  They said, “Just be prepared for no one to really care about your stories.”  Um…ouch?  That was a little rude.  It stung.  And the sting lasted for a while, because it happened.  People asked what my craziest story was or what my favorite part about being abroad was.  But no one listened or wanted to listen to the simple things that made my semester beautiful.

They didn’t ask how many sunsets I watched in how many countries, and what songs we listened to during those sunsets (Love Like A Sunset Part II by Phoenix just by the way…).  They didn’t wonder what Tuesday nights were like at Alfalfa.  They didn’t have questions about my friends and what they were like.  And they definitely didn’t think that I had a favorite tree in Sevilla that I cared so deeply about.  They just didn’t inquire about any of those things.

Then one day I realized.  It was our little slice of life together that I’m really okay with no one else knowing about.  You know what they say.  Lo que pasa en Sevilla, se queda en Sevilla.

 
 

An obligatory Christmas post

Merry Christmas to all of you lovers, dreamers, nonbelievers, humans, creatures–whatever you are, I hope you are having a beautiful Christmas.  A Christmas that is overflowing with joy and exploding with love.  Or at the very least, I hope you’re having a good day.

As usual, I can’t believe it’s Christmas.  It always just sneaks up on me every year.  Life just goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

December 25th brings up a lot to think about, but mostly the 365 days that came just before and that will come after today.

The last year has been fantastic.  I traveled to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting.  I finished another two semesters of college.  The people in my life remain happy, healthy, and full of love for each other.  I met some incredible people and made some really meaningful connections with people.  I’ve had my fair share (and maybe a little more) of adventure this year, and I could not imagine my world getting any better from here.

But the most amazing this is, is that I know it will.  I have a beautiful future to look forward to.  You want to know how I know that?  Because I won’t accept anything else.

To some degree, I believe in fate and destiny but I also believe in chance and making my own luck.  All of the experiences I’ve been blessed enough to have had this year were not random strokes of luck–they were plans.  I worked hard to be deserving of everything I got, and I intend to do the same for the rest of my life.  Fate and destiny have their own roles to play but when I look ahead to the next 365 days, I know that only I can get myself to where I want to be.  Same goes for you.

So, friends, never stop being thankful.  Do it all day, every day, during every moment you can.  THAT is how you spread love.  It’s how we keep ourselves moving forward to bigger and to better.

There are too many sunrises and sunsets to see, chocolates to eat, days to enjoy, oceans to swim in, air to breathe, people to meet, and trees to save.  Look ahead and find the future that you want.  Take it, and make it.

PS- I tried so hard not to include a rant about consumerism and how I think money/material totally replaced the true meaning of Christmas…And I succeeded!  So for that, you’re welcome.  You have been spared.

Day 11: Oslo, Norway

I can only express my thanks so many times for my friend Ninna, who hosted my stay in Norway and toured a few European countries with me for ten days this summer. Receiving a tour of Oslo from a Norwegian is not an opportunity that one comes across often, so that was a definite plus on the trip.

We started the day with a delicious breakfast, followed by a tour of the city. We went to Vigelandsparken, which is a park with famous sculptures.

The greenery is remarkably beautiful, I really admire that they value nature and choose to preserve it so extremely. I read a lot about the environment and nature (Speth, Muir, Thoreau) and I’ve imagined it, but never actually seen so much green. In an odd way, it was a vision come true for me. I thought my trip to Colorado gave me green hope but Norway is better.

Anyways. The city of Oslo itself seemed very quiet, peaceful, relaxing and overall calm. As we were walking down the main street, there was a large crowd waiting outside the Grand Hotel, and we actually saw Jay-Z go along his merry way to perform with Kanye. And later that day, we found out that they were eating sushi and wine at the same place that we were the day before! We were feeling pretty celeb status that day.

I got to see and experience a few different Norwegian customs and traditions so far. I saw the royal family’s castle, witnessed a soccer hooligan fight, tried a hotdog wrapped in a pancake, drank a lot of beer, ate a lot of bread, and as a treat I saw the Norwegian police all geared up with their shields and batons–very unusual activity apparently. Norwegian police are not issued guns/weapons.

Since it’s so absurdly expensive in Norway and we can’t even afford a night out on our own, we decided to drink some beer at home in the jacuzzi for a few hours and end the night watching Suits. I follow literally 3 TV series’ and they are all USA shows, and Suits is quite addicting so if you haven’t already, seriously check it out. If the hot lawyers aren’t enough to draw you in, you should see someone about that.

As we spent our night in, we also decided that it would be a wonderful idea to take a day trip to Paris since we already had plans to go to Amsterdam for a few days. (Wait til you hear that story–my favorite one from my entire trip.)

My overall opinion of Oslo is a good one. I didn’t encounter many people because they were a little shy to speak English but no one was memorably rude. I will never get over the greenery, and for that reason I really love Norway. The fjords and the farms and the scenery were seriously amazing. And thinking about it makes me want to write a blog about environmental literature and sustainability and all of those fun things! (Don’t judge me.)

I’m really looking forward to writing about Amsterdam and Paris though, and I hope you’re looking forward to reading them too. I do want to take a minute to say thanks to all of my followers–the numbers are growing!–and all the people who have commented and liked my posts. It’s a nice feeling logging in and getting to read and receive all of your feedback.

Day 10: Germany / Norway / Beer

I remember waking up at the crack of dawn in Rome, and taking a cab to the airport to catch my flight to Germany, where I would meet my friend Ninna so we could fly to Oslo together.  The difference between my arrival and departure in Berlin was not very long–I literally walked off one plane and walked onto the other.

It was a quick flight and just enough for us to catch up on the last two weeks that we were apart.  Girl stuff, boy talk, all that drama, etc.

When we landed in Oslo, we went straight to her house and spent the next few hours on her back porch, sunbathing, drinking beers, relaxing.  Just looking at this picture makes me want to go back!

A couple beers later, we went to Aker Brygge, which is a bay area in Oslo with buildings, boardwalks, restaurants, and a great view of the water.  We had shrimp and wine–very Norwegian–and I have to say, it was a real treat.  I didn’t even realize how expensive EVERYTHING is in Norway.  I didn’t believe Ninna when she warned me…but take my word for it: you do not want to be a student tourist in Norway.  More like No-way!

At this time of year in Oslo, the sky doesn’t get completely dark.  And if that’s not weird enough for you, check out this photo I took at 11 pm:

It is so bizarre, but so cool.  I’m not gonna complain about having more sunshine in my life!  I will gladly take as much Vitamin D as I possibly can.  Tis a beautiful, natural wonder.

Collection: Sunsets

As you may or may not know, I’m a big fan of sunsets (and rises).

For me, a sunset is a daily reminder of natural, moving, earthly beauty that takes place every single day; it’s something that can be seen from anywhere in the world.  In a way it connects us.  Part of it helps us to see that time is a constant we cannot control, a continuation of our separate lives, coming together for a few minutes at a time.

When I watch the sunset, I take the time to slow down.  Time deserves to be recognized, and if it takes a sunset to do so, then that will have to do.

Sunrises are different.  Those are for another time.  They make me feel completely different than sunsets do.

Anyway, here are a few of the best sunsets I’ve collected.  They’ve happened all over the world.  New York City, Long Beach Island, Point Pleasant, Jones Beach, Denver, Rome, Florence, Scotland.

That’s another beauty I find in sunsets.  Every single one is different.

(Some of these photos are Instagram’d, some taken on a Nikon D5100, iPhone 4, Fujifilm disposable camera.)

Hofstra University
Long Island, NY
2011

Hofstra University
Long Island, NY
2010

Seaside Heights, NJ
2012

Jones Beach
Long Island, NY
2010

Denver, CO
2012

Piazza Michaelangelo
Florence, Italy
2012

Ponte Vecchio
Florence, Italy
2012

Rome, Italy
2012

Hilton, NY
2011

Barnegat, NJ
2011

Warren County, NJ
2011

Loch Ness, Scotland
2006

Barnegat, NJ
2009