Spain: an Afterward

I’ve spent the three weeks since returning from Spain trying to explain what I feel and how I’ve changed. And after all this time I’m not much closer to an answer. I was warned repeatedly that reverse culture shock coming back can be worse than when you enter a new country. I guess I didn’t believe it.. Missouri has been home for 21 years, how could it hurt me? now I think I understand, because strangely it doesn’t feel like home. These surroundings are familiar perhaps, though certainly not normal.

When I went to Spain the shock I encountered could be attributed to fear of the unknown. Here I can’t do that, there’s nothing new to blame. The result is that I feel absolutely lost. It’s like reaching for something you routinely use and it being out of place; what’s more, you’re not sure exactly where you expected it to be. my whole life is here, yet something is not quite right. Like it’s shifted out of place, and I don’t know how it should be.

I made a mistake. I returned and expected to pick up my life right where I left it in January. The truth is that I can’t because I’m just not the same person. I’ve grown in both perspective and experience. Those are now parts of me that cannot be packed away. Yet these gains have not been without loss. Somewhere outside my comfort zone I surrendered my sense of home. In the long run that will likely be a good thing, for now it’s enough to know that it’s okay.

There’s two things I learned from my short time studying abroad that I will carry forward. The first is that home is a fluid concept. Anywhere can be home if we make it so, it is something we constantly recreate. The other is how concrete our sense of belonging can become. You see, belonging is not tied to a place, rather to the people with which we surround ourselves.

Enough of my rambling writing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my life is an uncertain balance. I can’t tell you exactly how I’ve changed. I definitely don’t have a grasp of my emotions. What I do know is that I’m capable of making anywhere home; and that if I surround myself with the right people, I can face any uncertainty that each day brings.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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dare to dream

We exist in an absurd world,

constantly at odds with ourselves;

life itself becomes a remarkable feat.

yet still,

we dare to dream in the face of it all.

Knowing full well dreams rarely come true.

And that,

that is the courage the world so desperately needs.

Each pivotal moment in history is led

not only by doers, lost in the present

but by those who turn ideas into reality.

that’s why I ask you to live for today,

hope for tomorrow,

and never, never stop dreaming.

Always choose to Be more.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

an Eventful day in Madrid

Check out the story I just posted over on TalesofSpain, while you’re there take a look at what my classmates and I are experiencing here in Spain…

Tales of Spain

Woke up late Saturday morning excited for a day in Madrid. The plan was to meet up with some friends at their hotel and then go see the Palacio Real. A simple enough plan that left plenty of room for error. The first step was the commuter train from Alcalá to Atocha station in Madrid. An easy trip that I can quite literally do in my sleep. From Atocha I switched to the metro system. With map in hand I successfully made my two connections and was just looking for my final stop. Unfortunately I had misread the directions that I’d been given and ended near Coslada almost halfway back to Alcalá. Of course, leaving the metro to look for the hotel, I didn’t realize right away. Finally after walking around for a good half hour, I finally found the street I thought I needed only for it to dead…

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Days of Gold

These are the days of Gold

Days of Love & Loss

of Triumph & Failure

These are the days

we’ll remember when old.

These are the nights of Joy

nights of Song & Laughter

of Life & Conversation

These are the nights

we’ll forever live for.


This was a piece I had written a good while back and just never knew what to do with. I had held on to the stanzas above telling myself they weren’t ready that they needed something more. my perspective was changed the other day while on the train. A man with a guitar in a knapsack and a message of love and hope hopped on. After having played a few Bob Marley songs and leaving his impact, he left, presumably to play for another train full of people.

Right then and there something clicked. It was wrong of me to withhold “Days of Gold.” It’ll never be finished; it’ll never be ready. All that matters is the willingness to be vulnerable. So anyway, go make something you love, and then give it way for the sake of someone else.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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Spain: a new Self

I’ve been living in Spain for nearly four weeks now. And it has been a rollercoaster of an experience so far. I have seen more fascinating sights than I could’ve expected, and I’m nowhere near done. These ups have not been without their downs. Seemingly everything is different than life in my small midwest town. My senses constantly overwhelmed. As of yet, there have been a few really bad episodes of culture shock. At a certain point you become physically done with the novelty. For me, it usually centers around my lack of language skills and the necessity to rely on other people. The reality of vulnerability. It has been painful at times.

One thought that is comforting is the vast new perspective I’m gaining of myself. It reminds me of a quote from Doctor Who,

“We all change when you think about it. We’re all different people all throughout our lives. And that’s ok; that’s good. You gotta keep moving so long as you remember all the people you used to be.” –The Doctor

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m leaving bits and pieces of who I was all over Spain. This semester is taking from me, and that is the best situation I can hope for. It allows for a new mindset, gives me a chance to fill in those holes with what I need to carry me forward.

Soon I’ll find myself back at that beautiful, familiar farm where I grew up. Will it recognize me? I know that I’ll be a different person. I know that everyday here, all the way to the end, will be a struggle. When I return to Missouri it will also be a struggle. I’ve learned there is no such thing as normal, and that is what I wake up every morning to face. Knowing that I am constantly recreating myself for the better.

Peace, Love, and Happiness… blogdoctorwho

–Joe

Save

Save

Tell me a story

my words grow few

nothing permeates my foul mood

meaningless chatter is nothing more

Please, just tell me a story.

make it a good one

Weave a tale of heroics & half-truths

that Inspire me to listen.

show me something worthwhile,

Bring me back to earth

go ahead, Tell me a Story…


Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Twenty-One

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I turned 21 on a street corner

a discreet place to grow old

conversing of mecca & happenstance

Our words foreign to the place.

Beyond me lays a world yet unknown,

piece by piece I strive to comprehend.

Though not a child of the Spanish son

adopted by the indifference of night

As I turn 21 on a street corner


Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

a short note to self

Beyond what you know lies a whole new world. Beyond one’s comfort zone is the realm of infinite possibility. It is ours for the taking, all that is required is that we agree to take each step anew.

Comfort is an illusion. What is there if we do not push the boundaries? Where we sit offers nothing but decay and more of the same. Now full disclosure, pushing the envelope will hurt. It’ll push back, and you’ll discover pain. Always the best we can do is simply keep trying.

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Your journeys will earn you scars. Pieces of you left behind, and experiences carried onward. Sometimes it’ll be tangible changes; a face worn by the sun, or a tongue with a hint of another language. Often they are less apparent and yet more powerful. Perhaps you’ll have a new perspective, or maybe you’ll encounter an entire paradigm shift. With certainty, travel makes you a different person.

Change is important. It helps us understand better who we are. Change allows us to discard that which pollutes us, and is the lens through which we may focus on that which remains important. It is easy to become dismayed by the anxiety and hurt we feel, exposed as we are. It’s in these moments that I strive to remember why I do this. It is not for myself now, rather I continue to Bemore for the person I will be tomorrow. Always tomorrow.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Spain: beforehand

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Occasionally life throws you a curve ball that you’re just not quite sure what you did to deserve. Often they can be amazing opportunities, and sometimes the hardest part is simply to say yes. It’s so easy to remain skeptical and watch a chance pass you by.

Back in September I was walking through the student union; earbuds in, ignoring the world. Fortunately there was a professor intent on making sure I knew about a certain study abroad program. I tried all the excuses, and he shot them all down. The cost, the language barrier, too late in my academic career, etc., etc. He countered it all. So I took a flyer and agreed to speak with my advisor about it.

Short version of this story is that I’m going to Spain next semester. I’ll be studying for three months at the Instituto Franklin UAH just outside Madrid. The decision came after a good long bout of personal turmoil, discussions with some people I trust for advice, and great deal of prayer. You see I had ruled out the possibility of studying abroad early in my collegiate studies. Of course, one of my more immediate faults is that once my mind is made up I have trouble going a different way. Yet here I am.

Fast forward to now. It’s December, I’ve finished my fall semester and the full notion that shortly I’ll be living in another country has really sunk in. Everyone keeps asking if I’m ready for my trip, the answer is always no but I am excited. Scared shitless is a more proper description of my state of mind. But I guess that’s okay. Being a little uncomfortable is how we grow. This will be so many things, I just hope that I can find the words to tell the story.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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a Treaty on character

Authentic. Trusting. Passionate.

We live in a culture that no longer values putting an honest image of yourself out there. Preferring for each of us to fit a preset mold. most often this causes us to wear a view of ourselves that is far from the truth. The authenticity that I seek is contrary to this cultural norm. I choose to pursue the entirety of who I am. and not just the most convenient parts. Fully aware that pieces of who I am are faults. And while I will try to overcome said issues, I refuse to hide them from view. We are best as a whole person. To disregard our blemishes is a hindrance to the truth. A lie that damages us most of all. St. Irenaeus told us, “The glory of God is human being fully alive.” We cannot hope to become fully alive if we do not accept who we are. So I choose to be authentic. To show the world my whole self, the good with the bad.

everyday we are surrounded by individuals who give us no reason to trust them, or worse, give us reason not to.It’s easy to walk through life wary of every step and each character we meet. not only is it convenient, but also the safer route. We are more likely to come to a gentle rest at the end of our days if we have kept to ourselves. Unfortunately, though it be a softer landing, it will most certainly be lonelier. Therefore it is in our interest to trust others. To bring them into our inner circle. The trouble with this is that we feel an obligation to protect those we hold close. This becomes difficult the more trust we give away. Regardless, we must simply do our best to trust them all and embrace the consequences. Now I do not wish for you to think me naive, I know that my trust will be misplaced often. Yet if I must error it will be in favor of an innocent trust. I believe that every person deserves my respect, and so I choose to begin at the top of that spectrum. I will trust.

Both Shakespeare’s King Leer and the Greek philosopher Parmenide Proclaim Nihil Fit Ex Nihilo, that is “nothing comes from nothing.” This continues to hold true to this day. If you want something you have to put the effort in. I am part of a generation oft associated with demanding the world be handed to us. Welfare babies and laissez faire workers. We are millenials. And still we are the generation with the most potential to change the world. Passion is about pushing the envelope. A passionate person cannot afford half measures. To be passionate is to envision what it takes to complete the task. The pain, frustration, and sacrifice that passion requires is enormous. The guiding light is that the rewards of these are limited only by our imaginations and the effort we put forth.

It is my desire that these will define who I am. Authenticity boils down to fully being the person you are. Trust is simply loving each person for who they are. Passion is a commitment to what we love, and a rejection of half measures. These I’ll strive for today, tomorrow, and after that.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe