Yesterday was an all-around good day. Being in a new city, I felt more energized to get out there and meet new people. I started with the desire to shoot my first yoga video and then walked to Starbuck’s to grab an oatmeal, check in with the online stratosphere, and the intention to edit my yoga video. However, after a short while, I was drawn to walk around and found myself petting two adorable dogs in a pottery painting shop. I took ceramics in high school and I thought to myself: “painting would be nice” so I walked in, picked out a gift for the lovely hosts that are putting me up in Houston, and decided to devote a little time getting into a creative flow. I met the most amazing Artistic Gatherings store owner, Kim, who decided she would paint alongside me and that led to the most interactive conversation. Kim was intrigued about my journey, take on life, and informed me that she was undergoing many changes – she had just been approved to buy a house: a long-time dream of her’s! Kim has owned the store for almost 10 years and I could understand why. The moment you walk in, you are greeted with a smile, a welcoming run-through of unlimited colors to choose from (no matter how big or small the project) and a: “let me set you up with a station.” I felt right at home, being that I was away from home, and the company, conversation and creative process was absolutely amazing.
After I concluded with Kim, I walked to T-Mobile to switch from AT&T. I have had AT&T for about 11 years and I decided to switch based off the unlimited talk, text and data T-Mobile offers. Because I will be traveling in rural areas across the country, I wanted to ensure I could have unlimited tethering ability to use my phone as an internet hotspot and not get weekly texts updating me how I surpassed the 1GB of data and was being charged $15/week. I had expressed to Heather and Ben, the two lovely souls I am staying with (thanks Brenda!), how expensive my data charges had gotten and they suggested I look into T-Mobile. My monthly AT&T billed range $160 + overage charges because when I got a new phone, they tacked it onto my $110 plan per month but were also charging me interest on the phone. I learned: T-Mobile doesn’t charge interest on new phones, you can cancel anytime (same with AT&T now) but the unlimited talk, text, and data for T-Mobile costs $70 + $20 for a new phone (I traded my old one in to get credit to my account). The people at T-Mobile were all positive upbeat and extremely helpful. Damien, Pablo and Juan were deeply interested in who I was because I was deeply interested in who they were. The thing with interacting with people, no matter if they are trying to sell something or not, the best way to communicate is by getting to know the person first. One might assume that is a waste of time and misleading, but blowing people off and assuming that they are not worth your time says your time is somehow more important than theirs. When you are speaking to people who might make you frustrated, angry, or want to #tableflip, try to remember that they are human and you have held people up at sometime in your life too and all you are trying to do is get by so by exhibiting patience and respect, 9 times out of 10, people will to go above and beyond to provide you quality customer service because you exhibit empathy and patience. This I promise you. The guys were great and I am about to call T-Mobile and give them the positive feedback.
Now while waiting for the T-Mobile to get my service set up and all that jazz, I had an incredibly insightful conversation with a bright, quick-witted, and positive soul. I was delighted that the T-Mobile process took some time because I realized time is never wasted: there is always a student or a teacher nearby but being open and putting yourself out there is the first step. She went by the name of Anya; she was 9 and was shy at first but I just struck up our banter with a “what’s your name?” and a “I noticed you like doing cartwheels, I have been practicing my handstands.” And that led to a plethora of questions, smiles and pondering moments.
Anya: “You seem so joyful. How do you deal with people who are mean to you? Like bullies?”
Me: “Well, being joyful and happy is an active choice. Sometimes it isn’t easy, but knowing that people who are mean to you often are afraid of something in their own life and choosing to be nice to them in return is something you can control. Can you give me an example of when you were bullied?”
Anya: “Yeah, there was this boy, in my class, that wrote me this mean note. It said, ‘you’re going to catch on fire and die.’ I don’t know why he would write that to me. It scared me. He got expelled later in the school year. Well, three people did but that day, I was running late and gathering my books and he just gave it to me.” She shook her head and looked confused. And at that moment, I was too.
Me: “I cannot tell you what was going on through his head at that moment and I could give you ‘maybe’s’ all day but when people are mean to others, there are a lot of things that could be happening. I am sorry he made you feel scared and I bet you weren’t the only one who he scared. But the thing about people who try to scare other people, are often afraid or scared of something themselves.”
Anya: “Yeah, his parents didn’t give him much attention.”
Me: “It’s hard to understand sometimes. Here’s the thing with attention: in school, do you notice that the trouble-makers get the most attention? And the good students, many times they don’t want to have attention for the fear that they’ll be labeled the ‘teacher’s pet’ or get made fun of by others? It is hard to be good. It is hard to push through your own fears of what others might think. But doing what you love and knowing what makes you happy is important to remaining true to yourself. Another thing is to empathize, not judge the person who upset you. Like, can you give me an example of when you made someone sad when you didn’t mean to but maybe you felt defensive?”
Anya: “Yes. There was this girl in my class and she kept bossing people around, telling them what to do. And I announced to the whole class how she wasn’t our parents. And then she started to cry. I felt bad but I just wanted her to know that she didn’t need to be so bossy.”
Me: “You are so incredibly self-aware. Yes, you didn’t mean to make her feel bad but you did something because you were afraid that she was trying to tell you to do something that you didn’t want to do. People do that, we say things when we feel like our back is against the wall, or when we don’t agree with something. The trick to this is understanding that we all feel afraid at some point and there are always nice ways to approach any situation.”
Anya: “How do you deal with time?”
Me: “What do you mean? Are you talking about… tests?”
Anya: “Yes! Every time I take a test, I get nervous. I start to hear music. Start drifting to lala-land; I love it there, and then I think I don’t have enough time! And I think I got a 60 but then I get a 90/95 and I am like, ‘it’s okay.’ But math. Math, I keep getting 80’s, then 90’s, then 70’s, then back up to 90’s – I don’t like math. I don’t know what to do.”
Me: “Well, it seems whatever you are doing for your other subjects are working just fine if you get 90/95’s and yeah, I had trouble with math as well.”
Anya: “Yeah, because I am not doing well. I have to do flashcards during recess. Which makes me even more nervous. I love recess; it’s my only free time (I smile to myself thinking that kids have the same struggles as adults, in terms of their allotment with time) and I have to spend it doing flashcards when I could be playing. And I have to get 100 on this test before I can be allowed to go out for recess and now I am even more nervous taking the test because if I don’t get 100%, I will have to keep up with the flashcards and no recess.”
Me: “The thing about memory is that it is a funny thing. We tend to remember things we like and I know you aren’t particularly fond of math but think of clever ways you can make it fun. You spoke of lala-land, well, whatever you have in lala-land, you can use and apply it to math. So let’s say you have a lot of daisies in lala-land. You can use those daisies in replace of numbers. If you use applicable things you love, it might be easier to remember and creating a story around those numbers. It is worth a try but don’t get discouraged; you are a smart girl and I know that if you want recess, you and your sharp mind will find a way to remember your flashcards and play at recess.”
We chatted a lot more about topics like: yoga (her mom suggested I teach at schools across the country) gymnastics, swimming, phones – landline phones, and how she sees the future of flying cars and what future phones look like. Her imagination but rooted perspective blew me away. She was so delightful and it seemed as if she hung on to every word I spoke, cherishing it as a new found flower which she shared with her parents every so often while I was called to the desk to discuss my T-Mobile plan. But she truly made my afternoon. It was a special day and I realized after talking to Anya that there are millions of children who are overlooked because we get so caught up in our busy lives that if we just sit, listen, converse and question them: their answers are so profoundly similar – their fears and passions are driven just like our’s and they are so loving that they want to share it with anyone and everyone. You start to wonder: “when did I lose that?” or: “is that love of sharing and learning still in there? And why have I kept it hidden and kept away for so long?”
Thanks for the reminder, Anya. You have truly impacted my life and journey.
Friday 5/2/2014 (but really should have been posted Monday 4/27/2014):
During my Cheer Up Charlie’s Fundraiser on Sunday 4/26/2014, Maggie (the co-owner) ended up booking a rad DJ who bared the 93 degree heat to help my cause. He was absolutely delightful and he was mad talented. I had the honor of meeting him and I would recommend him to anyone needing a DJ or just go check him out. Much love, Jorge and thanks again for being there and dropping the beats on such a brutally hot day (also for getting your friends to donate/take my swag)!
Wednesday 4/23/2014: I have been meaning to shout out to this lady who is traveling across the country on her bike:
She has been incredibly inspirational. We met up at REI one afternoon and had lunch at Whole Foods and she gave me a list of things to purchase for my trip (check out the Instagram picture).
So how we met: I picked up a random business card about a month ago (when my travel plan was at its early stages – not all the details had been nailed down) and it was this videographer/photographer’s information. His name was Dana and I called him up to propose to him my idea of traveling across the country asking people their stories. And well, he was so on-board that he wanted to meet. A few weeks and a group lunch later, he informed me that I needed to meet his friend, Maeg, who was traveling on a bicycle across the country. And so that is how Maeg and I met. Thanks to the totally serendipitous grab of a cool-looking photographer’s card and coming to find that Dana has traveled all around the world – I must say: the universe knew what it was doing. #businesscardsdowork!
Tuesday 4/22/2014: I was on my way to home for Easter, going to Springfield from my layover in Dallas, and was seated in a window seat on the left side of the plane. There was the aisle and then two seats on the right side. The aisle seat was vacant and the opposite window seat was occupied by a middle-aged black lady. We caught eyes and smiled to one another and I thought that would be the end to this story. A voice inside my head said, “go sit next to her.” I hesitated, observed the veins in her neck pulsating at a rate that I was all too familiar with – she was crying. As we were about to depart from the gate, I got up, asked her if I could sit in that vacant aisle seat next to her. I sat down and said, “I wanted to make you a necklace” as I handed her my case of rose quartz beads and introduced myself. She shook my hand sheepishly, gave me her name and picked a bead out. I began making her necklace; neither one of us saying anything to one another. When I was finished, I placed the necklace into her palm and she looked up inquisitively asking, “What do I owe you?” I replied: “Nothing. I just wanted you to feel loved and I am here if you need anything.” She looked at me in disbelief, thanked me and went back to looking out the window, her neck vein still pulsating with few intermittent sniffles. After a few minutes, she turned to me as her breaths got deeper and her eyes filled with tears, “I have had a long distance marriage with my husband of 28 years. I found out he cheated on me with another woman and has decided to be with her. I went to Plano to try to convince him how much I loved him and how hurt I was but that didn’t do anything. I feel so hurt, so lonely and embarrassed. I just want to crawl into a hole.” My heart stopped. I thought to myself: “What did I just get myself into?” Tears started rolling down the left side of my cheek as I mentally pumped myself up to reinforce the things I have been telling myself lately: “Do not try to control, compete, compare, criticize, condemn others for it is an endless game, master yourself and acknowledge your love you hold for yourself and all pains will subside as quickly as they come and your love will prevail.” I took a breath and told her how I understood her pain, even if it didn’t seem like I could, but how I had a past with abandonment, failure, embarrassment and the hole of despair she described. I told her that what helped me was taking time to think about my good memories and what made them good and my bad memories and what made them bad and then piecing a puzzle of my reality in how I perceive personal, inner happiness. She examined me, believed me when I told her about my birth story, my relationship journey, and the time I dove into for myself throughout yoga training. I informed her that she could create a sanctuary within her mind that she could go to to feel safe, comforted, fulfilled and that my sanctuary consisted of a wooden cabin, deep in the forest, next to a running stream where I did yoga, made jewelry, listened to music, baked cupcakes and read. I told her I could picture the natural lighting in the cabin, the soft flannel blankets laid out on a enveloping couch, the table with white linen and freshly picked flowers in a small, delicate vase and even the layout of the kitchen with retro looking appliances. She looked brighter, yet still saddened and responded, “I am so lonely. I don’t know what to do. All the people in my life have died or have left me. My favorite memory was when my grandson was born, I cut his umbilical cord, and from that moment forward, I was his MeMe. He died in a car accident and when they came to tell me about it, I just shook my head in disbelief and said, ‘It’s not true.’ I asked God, ‘Did I praise or worship him too much?’ but God responded, ‘No.’ But then I ask myself, ‘Why? Why would he be taken from me?'” I then, asked her about her favorite childhood memory and she replied, after giving it much thought, “I don’t have one, I was molested as a child by a man who threatened to kill my family if I told anyone but my grandmother knew something was wrong and she got it out of me. She was my closest relative, but she died shortly thereafter.” I felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks. This woman’s life story stunned me to the point of borderline disbelief – the idea that she did not have one single positive memory from her childhood left me in awe. I sat. I waited and asked, “Do you love people at arms length, always fearing that they’ll be taken from you?” She nodded fervently. I then said, “It is not within our power to control what happens to other people; we can only control ourselves and our mindset. People cannot truly love others until they love themselves; for if they do not love themselves, they will always be reaching for others to fill the gap in their own heart that they are searching for others to fill. What I mean is: if your heart was a jar and your love only stood for 60%, and 40% you were getting from outside sources; so when that 40% is gone, you are only left with 60% of yourself and usually that 60% is diluted with fear, unworthiness, doubt and regret. The way you can work on this is figuring out what you love, when no one else is around. What you flock toward if you had a day to yourself and no other obligations. When you find that additional 40% made from love, you will know and you can strengthen it by focusing on it a little everyday, making it stronger, making you stronger, making your heart stronger to withstand all these struggles. She looked in my eyes and said, “I asked God to send me someone to talk to when I was in the airport because I was so alone. I truly did not know what I would have done if I had gone home tonight. And Here you are, helping me; you saved my life. He truly answered my prayers and you, my darling, have a gift.” I started crying and she looked upon me consolingly and laughed, “I didn’t mean to make you cry but here I am laughing like I never thought I would.” She wrote my number down in a book and labelled it: “Angel on the plane” and I promised her I would text her every morning to send her positive daily mantras and that I would be her person in her corner to positively reinforce the love she is working to gain for herself. She told me she felt a weight had been lifted and that she knew it would come back but felt braver and more at ease and thanked me again. Little did she know of the major role she played in my story; she truly was an “Angel on the plane” for me to continue down my path of purpose. It has been five days and I will continue to text her throughout our journey through life.