No right way to move forward

papiLife is hard. It’s beautiful, rewarding and fun, but underneath it all, it is also hard. It’s hard because it isn’t perfect. Even when you find a perfect moment in the chaos, time refuses to stand still and that moment quickly becomes a memory. You forge relationships and love the family you are born into and the one you choose only to eventually face the reality that you will lose them. You find yourself staring into a future that is void of someone who was an integral part of your past wondering how on earth your life continues on. And yet, you know it will. Deep down you know that loss is inevitable and somehow you will move forward…but maybe not yet.

Grief is hard. You grieve for the loss you feel of the life you had and the future you had envisioned. Oftentimes there’s a bit of regret mixed in. What moments did you miss? What more could you have done? What more could you have said? Somehow you know you have to get to a point of acceptance, but right here in this moment that seems to be an impossible standard to reach.

Loss is hard. There’s an emptiness that ironically fills you up. You go to where the person once was and still picture them as being there. You convince yourself they are just around the corner. You can almost hear their laugh. Your brain tells you they aren’t there, but you can literally feel their presence.

Three weeks ago my Papi passed away. This past weekend we had a life celebration service at my Nana and Papi’s farm. I grew up on this farm. I say I’ve lived in North Carolina forever, but until I was 8 years old, I lived in Saint Louis during the week and spent my weekends escaping to my grandparents’ farm. There was a treehouse, a barn, lawnmowers, a cabin and a lake (sort of), but above all there was a loving Nana and Papi always anxiously waiting to spoil rotten any grandkids who showed up at their door.

Almost all the grandkids have grown up, and most of us live far away from the farm now, but somehow we all become those wild crazy kids everytime we go back to that farm, and having the service there represented the homecoming we all needed. All the pieces of this huge family tree converged on this one plot of breathtakingly beautiful land. For some, it was the first visit, but for many, we were just coming home. Not to the home we grew up in, but rather the home of love, laughter and family that our Nana and Papi built- the home always full of hugs and good food.

To say that my Papi was an integral part of shaping me into who I am today would be a vast understatement. Anyone who knows me knows about my Papi. They see his face in my pictures, they see his teachings in my photography, and they see his wisdom in my life. I have a long way to go in the process of grief and loss, but I also, hopefully, have a long way to go in the process of life. There is no right way to move forward, it’s just something we all have to do. I will miss him every day, but there’s a peace in knowing that I will also remember him every day. And through that remembrance, myself and everyone else who knew and loved him, will keep him with us, and that is also a comfort.


Live beyond compare

When you travel there is this natural inclination to form comparisons between home and the vacation spot and often times it’s quite easy to find flaws with home as you relax far away from stress and responsibility. The sun is so much brighter here. The people all smile, and everything is so close by! No matter what locale you travel to, however, by the end of the trip, you are more than ready to venture back home. Home, after all, is the norm. It’s what you know and love and without even realizing it, you have been mentally mapping out your life intending to stay right there.

Ever since college I’ve realized more and more how many roots I’ve planted around North Carolina. I love this state. I’ve gone through more than two thirds of my life here and somehow at 25, I’ve planned my life around being here. Then Australia happened. And for the first time in my life I JUMPED at the chance to throw the largest of all monkey wrenches into my life plan. I immediately found myself comparing everything. With the aid of a few guidebooks I began rattling off random differences between Australia and the US. Did you know bananas can get crazy expensive there? Their winters are our SUMMERS. It’s so much closer to oceans than here! Everything there will try and kill me and here I just have mosquitos…

Somewhere mid-ramble, I caught myself. While in this moment comparisons are natural, I simply can’t compare the old with the new for the four years that I’m abroad. Whatever is there will not be “new” forever, it will be my new normal. Good, bad or ugly, it’s the new life. It will be the new home. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. And that is ok. Now, coming to this conclusion and living it out are two very different things. This life of non-comparison needs practicing if I have any hope of follow-through come February 2015. So when I went to San Diego this past week I figured it was a great place to start.

I’ve been to the west Coast just once before and that was to San Francisco (a whole different world—according to the Californians I know). The flight out was my first shocker. I might as well have flown to Europe for all those hours on the plane. But Australia will require 20+ hours of flying. Oh my gosh that’s so much LONGER than anywhere aroundwait. Don’t compare.

The landscape as I flew into the airport was just incredible. Hills, ocean, beautiful houses, beaches…this area has it all. After all these years, I know my landings in Raleigh and Saint Louis like the back of my hand, but this landscape was brand new. As soon as the plane touched down I had this overwhelming feeling that I was embarking on an adventure- a mini-Australia if you will. After all, it is a heavily populated ocean city that’s got a cost of living not favorable to a student. Yep, sounds like Australia.

My aunt and uncle gave my sister and me the royal treatment. We went all over the city, hitting the ocean with some surf lessons, the beach for a lazy day, and the zoo for some exercise. Seriously, we thought we were going to see the animals, but in reality there are MOUNTAINS hidden within the San Diego Zoo. In between the activities we found plenty of time to indulge in delicious drinks and food (Grace and I agree a goal of the trip must have been to fatten us up with sweets).

I found that I loved being beside the ocean, which surprised me. I’ve always loved visiting the ocean, but I’d never thought of myself as the type of person to live beside it. The sun being constantly out made for some really hot days, but the close proximity to the ocean made for some cooling breezes. Suddenly my all too frequent “home to here” comparisons were weighing heavily in favor of the California beaches. It’s not that I liked it more than home, but my new resolve to be open-minded had me appreciating the ocean city life for what it was. The restaurants were fresh, the drinks were breezy and the weather was beautiful (not to mention the company was superb!). This life could be a life I would enjoy, and yet, I’m so settled where I am. Why am I so settled?

I’m learning more and more just how small my world is. I’ve said this in posts before, but I can’t stress it enough. We are so blessed in the US to be so connected to so many different cultures and lifestyles in this melting pot. Everyone talks about how easy it is to travel in Europe, and that seems a popular destination for Americans, but there’s so much of the US left for me to discover! In my whole life I’ve only made two trips to the west side of the country.

My trip to San Diego made me excited to be unsettled. It made me focus on all the positives of where I was without comparing. Normally I am not a fan of big cities and lots of people, but maybe that’s because I’ve always approached those cities with the comparison of home. If I only compare new things to my comfort zone, chances are I won’t ever find something new that comes anywhere close to my old. I must force myself to live beyond compare.Sure, you can’t help but to relate a few things back to your everyday life, but all in all I’m trying to focus on what the here and now offers. I need to make the most of where I am in each moment. And while the point of the post is to NOT compare, I can’t help but to think if Australia is anywhere close to what San Diego is…I might feel right at home!