Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Scratching The Surface

Written by Karen
Tokyo, Japan
I’ve been thinking about the idea of moving into different neighborhoods, towns, regions, lifestyles and cultures and “blending in” to understand a different perspective or way of life.  For me, this idea is most closely associated with travel, and it is an aspect of travel that I absolutely love.  

One of our primary travel objectives is to travel slow, blend in and see how other people live their ordinary lives. Not to say that people don’t live extraordinary lives, but rather witness, participate, and possibly gain a greater understanding of the regular ebb and flow of daily events. 
Over the years, we have opted to rent apartments or flats in different cities that allow us to acquaint ourselves with different people, cultures and lifestyles. It’s a little more challenging this way. There’s always the very real possibility of things going awry and it is totally out of our comfort zone.  I love that.  And, because of all of those things, I get to find out more about the person that I really am, not the person that I feel like I have to be during the 8 – 6 daily week day routine, or the shadow of myself when I crash on the couch after dinner.  
Lucerne, Switzerland
I get to scratch the surface and make sure that I am still there.  
I remember awhile back, I was attending the University of Guanajuato for a summer English immersion program through UC Berkeley.  As a re-entry, married student, I was older than most of my student colleagues, but I still wanted the experience of living in Mexico for six weeks.  I was assigned to live with a family and part of the experience was to communicate only in Spanish.  The family had a maid/housekeeper and I met her one day while she was cleaning the bedrooms.  I asked her how she liked working for this family, and she said that it was fine, but that I was so lucky to be so rich.  I replied, ‘oh no, I am a student and certainly am not rich.  In fact we borrowed money for me to attend this program.’ And, she said in a very matter-of-fact tone - and this has stayed with me ever since – ‘maybe you are not rich with money, but you are rich with choices.  I have no other choice but to do this type of work.  I would love to teach, but I will never be able to because I cannot go to college. I don’t have any options.’
In her eyes, I was rich because I had options.  That stuck with me.  The idea of being rich because I had options.  It is now a core philosophy of mine. If you can figure out your options, it means that you are not stuck.  You can never be stuck if you have the power of choice.  
Although I lived in the town of Guanajuato for six weeks that summer, learned where to go to get coffee and a pastry, interacted with the townspeople on a daily basis, learned to speak Spanish a little, and started to fall into their daily routine and rhythm, I barely scratched the surface of the Mexican way of life.  I understood it a lot better. I fell in love with the culture, but barely scratched the surface.  But I did scratch the surface of the woman housekeeper and came up with a lasting gem. 
Tokyo, Japan
If we scratch off the protective veneers that we have built up over time, what will we find?  Our true selves?  If we take the time to scratch the surface of those we interact with during the day, what will we find?  Maybe some mean and nasty people, but maybe, we will find some really nice people who are just trying to survive who have some good insights.
For me, having the chance to completely strip off the protective veneer that has been built up over these past six years will be an opportunity to re-connect with my true self again.  And spending time with that person, along with my life partner, seems like a true gift.  Who knows what opportunities will come our way as we learn to live with our true selves?  As we start to scratch the surface of life unhindered by the everyday grind?  

As a long-time Apple fan, I'd like to give a shout out to Steve Jobs who resigned today as CEO of Apple. This is from a commencement speech he gave on June 12, 2005:

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.  

Stay hungry. Stay foolish."   Good luck Steve.

1 comment:

MoneyIQ said...

Do you think that you are re-connecting with your true, authentic stuff just through this process?