dear kayla and catherine,
Wow, it’s been awhile! I’ve only been in Valpo for about a week and a half but I feel like it’s been forever. And I guess that’s what I want this post to be about. I know. Time is not a very travel blog-y concept to meditate on, but it is something that’s been on my mind as I’ve explored this country. Not only time, but also what to do with it, and how to make the most of whatever amount of it we’re given. Coming into this trip, the idea of spending five weeks here scared me. Knowing literally no-one in the program or in the country I initially struggled with the idea of having to spend large amounts of time alone with myself. I’ve discovered two important things since then: one that it is very hard to be a human being who exists remotely near to other human beings and be completely alone. Friendships form in the most unlikely of places and because of the most stressful circumstances. The other day my friend from the program and I had drinks at a bar with some men from the Chilean navy who are now our de facto tour guides for the city. And two, the Quakers had something right about silence. I think recently I’ve tended to turn from spending time with myself to hide openly in the company of others because I’ve been scared of what I might find within me. Now, I am grateful for the forced opportunity to do otherwise. But on to time. Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote, “The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today’s memory and tomorrow is today’s dream”-Kahlil Gibran. To be perfectly honest I don’t understand completely what it means, but it makes me think about the value of experiences, even those that can be hard. Eventually our present troubles will transform into the foundations of our knowledge, and thus inform our choices. Likewise, the fact that we’re constantly moving through space and time means that there is literally always something on the horizon. A dream yet undreamed, a friendship waiting to be formed, and a talent to cultivate. Even in our darkest hours we are guaranteed the sunrise, and while we still breathe we know that there is life ahead. I find that to be so beautifully simple and comforting.
But what to do about the inevitable loss of time, time wasted, or times we spend our lives trying to recapture. Well I have no idea. All I know is that one thing I’ve stopped doing is counting down time. There have been many moments in my life where I’ve made countdowns to important or fun things, or have counted down till the end of a class, a semester, or a work day. I find that so silly now. While the future is a beautiful promise, if we are constantly looking ahead how are we to ever fully feel? So much of adolescent life in the United States is constructed around the future. Get through high school to get to college, get through college to get a job, get through ten years of this entry level position so you can be a big time banker. What does that say about us, if as a culture, we value what lies ahead so much that we diminish the value of the moment? So even in my most difficult moments here, like crouching in a breaking down Chilean military shelter, I have tried to be present and thankful for the moments that make up a life.
And that leads me to one little bit on love. As I mentioned before, one of my greatest realizations on this trip is that you’re never fully alone. Even if I were traveling by myself in Antartica I would carry the people I care about with me. And as I write this in a hipster Chilean coffee shop in hilly Valparaiso, I exchange pleasantries and laughter with a friendly barista, and I become ever more sure of that. And while I am excited for the gift of tomorrow, I try and cling to the details of the present. Enjoying every sip of chocolate caliente and pan con palta, breathing in the night’s cold air, and loving the people who have lead me here. For while we ever know how many tomorrows we have left, we can love the life and the lives that have lead us to today.