Kelli Murphy

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To Live Is the Rarest of All

 “Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground.” -Judith Thurman

Is there really a right way to prepare for something you’ve never undergone before? Because I’ve read travel tips, packing suggestions, and spoken to others about my upcoming journey—and I’m still scatter-brained and anxious. Truthfully, I’ve never been this far away from home.

Truthfully, I’ve never been away from home at all.

So naturally, I’m scared about going across the world with people I barely know. I’ve been confined to places near my home my entire life. I would usually want to stay near home in case anything ever happened to my mom (she was sick). She has since passed away, and I almost feel lost. It’s like my whole life revolved around taking care of her, and since she’s been gone, I have no clue what direction my life should go in. Choices were offered to me that I haven’t been able to even think about doing before—like this trip.

Now that I’m in college, my personal home situation has changed drastically. I can go wherever and not have to worry. I’m no longer confined as I once was because of my immediate family. Don’t get me wrong, losing my mom was the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. But I’m a perserverant, positive person by nature. When I looked at what happened from the outside in, I realized what she did for me.

She gave me my own life back, and I could do anything I wanted to do with it.  I no longer had to grow up taking care of my mother like I thought I was going to have to do. Before, everything I did in my life revolved around taking care of her and keeping her safe. Now, I don’t have to take care of anyone but myself. It’s become a very important pivotal point in my life and where I see my future.

It was a scary thought to realize. It’s crazy to think your whole life is going to be one way, and then it gets flipped upside down with one huge event…and all of a sudden…the whole world is up for grabs. I’m no longer financially or physically tied down to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (not that I was before, but I’d feel guilty leaving her alone. Really, take care of your parents for as long as you can. They need you.)

But now…I could leave guilt free. You see, I’ve always had the desire to travel—I just haven’t had the means to. I always believed people aren’t meant to settle in one place. I believe everyone has this wanderlust about them, and I know I definitely have it about myself. I just have this desire to EXPERIENCE. I’ve always thought there’s so much more to life and actually LIVING, just because I haven’t been able to do much up until now. But I’m going to take this trip, and I’m and I’m going to do it all with her in my heart and thanking her with every cobblestone I walk on.

Because it’s rare—to actually live. Most people just exist. But I plan to live for the both of us now.
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Breaking the “American” Impression

Because in a sense, it’s the coming back, the return which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we’ve come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become. Which is, after all, why we left.

While traveling I have to admit I’ve been quite overcautious when presenting myself to others. Honestly, I’m scared of giving off the “typical American impression.” I have a set of characteristics in my mind of what the phrase “typical” implies—which I’m sure others can concur with—and I’m deathly afraid of giving off the wrong impression to complete strangers who will obviously never see my face again. If I could place a reason why I’ve been trying so hard, I can only come to one: I don’t want foreigners to have a bad impression of all Americans in general. I don’t want to be looked at as a “typical” American tourist. To me, it’s a very offensive insult.  I don’t enjoy strangers I don’t know having a set impression of me before they speak one word to me.

I feel ashamed to feel this way, because I should be proud to be from my country—but I also think it’s good to be aware of opinions. It’s almost as if Americans have a love/hate relationship with their own identity. We love ‘Murica and we hate ‘Murica all the same; we can’t make up our minds. In a way, we are self-aware. In other ways, we’re unaware of our own behavior. We can make fun of ourselves, but we get offended when others make the same insults towards us.  By “typical American,” I’m referring to the following underlying characteristics that are stickered onto our foreheads:

We’re loud.
We’re obnoxious.
We’re pigs.
We’re full of ourselves.
We’re not courteous of others.

In a way I can agree with these statements. There are typical American tourists. Beneath every stereotype is an inkling—a sliver—of truth. There’s a reason that stereotype exists. However, I’ve personally been attempting to break this barrier that others seem to have with us. When out and about throughout the city, I’ve made an effort to show that I’m mindful of my surroundings. Am I trying too hard? Definitely—but I would rather try too hard than not at all. I’ve always found that the best thing you can do towards other people is be kind and considerate, no matter what. Working in the area of customer service will do that to your mind and get you outside of your own thought bubble. Kindness can get you walked on, but it can also get you farther than you can imagine.

I hope this simple aspect has helped shape the way foreigners view Americans. The effort I’ve put forward throughout my journey so far has taught me a lot. I’ve learned that if you sit down at try to have a conversation with a local, they’ll appreciate it and be very excited to talk with you. I’m sure they get more than enough tourists on a daily basis that come through in an ignorant fashion and do not delve into their surroundings, and I did not want to be one of those people.

I’ve attempted to start conversation in pubs and the Tube (London’s underground subway station) with locals, and they’ve all been excellent. Because of my effort, I was able to sample all beers on tap at a pub—and I mean who could ask for more! Any question I’ve had for a local they’ve eagerly answered. I’ve made countless people laugh.  I’ve yet to have a discrepancy with someone who wasn’t willing to talk to me because of my nationality. The way I’ve portrayed myself and my nation has renewed a sense of pride in it. I really am proud to be an American, and if I can change even one person’s stereotypical opinion, it will have made all the difference.
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Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

“Sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zones. We have to break the rules. And we have to discover the sensuality of fear. We need to face it, challenge it, and dance with it.” ― Kyra Davis

The comfort zone- truthfully it’s a wonderful place. In this place, the mind is at complete ease. There is no situation that causes stress or discomfort.  Day-to-day activities become a routine that one can fall into easily, and everything is usually planned. Life becomes settled and the future becomes predictable. Predictability can be a positive or negative influence; everyone is different. Just as good things can come from comfort zones—just because something is the same doesn’t mean it’s bad.

My personal comfort zone has been a very stagnant place the last few years. I understand that I’m young and have many years to change it. I am only chained by the chains I wrap myself in. No one can make decisions for my path but me, and I have no one to blame for the parts of my life that I’m unhappy with but myself. Yet despite knowing these things, my life has remained the same throughout my university studies. I had plenty of obligations this semester—19 credits, a paid internship, and a part time job that all demanded my time and full effort.

Everything I’ve done so far, I’ve tried to put a lot of effort into. You never know where your path may lead or who could help you get there. But I still feel like I haven’t done enough. I feel like every day at home has been the same monotonous, “work myself to death” mentality. I’m not doing anything I truly enjoy yet. I haven’t found my place in the world, but I also haven’t tried hard enough to find it. Nothing will just fall into my lap—I need to take a risk. I need to sacrifice some things in order to find out who I am. I asked myself why I’ve allowed myself to fall into a routine and become predictable—why haven’t I challenged myself more? You’ll only get out of life exactly what you put into it, and the effort I’ve been placing in my life has definitely been enough, but it’s been misplaced at the same time. This misplaced effort goes into accomplishing feats that do not change my life.

In order to find where I want to be, I need to take more risks. I need to make more changes and sacrifice my comfort zone to make the necessary changes that will lead to my growth. I need to find this underlying ambition and project it outward into everything I do. If I’ve realized anything from this experience, it’s that stepping outside of my comfort zone has already made me grow ten times more than I would have if I stayed home. The boxes I’ve encompassed myself in have done nothing but hold me back and make me weaker—hesitant and anxious.

The underlying factor beneath my comfort zone is fear; a cause I believe is underneath most hesitations and decisions. Humans naturally fear the unknown. What we do not know we compensate for.

Death. Loneliness.  Pain. The Unknown. Disappointment. Rejection. Misery. Ridicule. Failure.

All the things we fear are created by our own uncertainty of ourselves. Being outside your own element exposes you to so much more than you would have otherwise and allows you to come to terms with that uncertainty you have within yourself and battle it. It allows you to stop settling for less than you deserve from yourself and to push harder for what you want from your life. Becoming accustomed to “fine” and “okay” and “I don’t want to do that” or “I’m scared to do that” are no longer an option after your comfort bubble is broken. Let me make this clear—the fear does not leave. It doesn’t magically dissipate into thin air. It transforms, just as any energy does, into a positive motivation factor.

Fear should  not hold you back as a person, it should propel you forward. People aren’t meant to stay in one place. We’re meant to rove about, to change constantly, and to become nomads. We’re meant to grow and experience. The experience is everything—not the destination. Only when we experience life can we truly find ourselves and our place in the world. And for that, you need to step out of the box.

Nothing truly great comes from comfort zones.
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Experiencing History

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

Coming in contact with pieces of history has always been an interesting experience for me. I always want to take in every detail and try to let everything sink in. I let my background knowledge of the piece aid me in placing my feelings and appreciation for it, and I then try to understand the purpose behind the piece as a whole.

Little did I know this tactic wouldn’t help me in my pursuit of touring The Musee de Louvre yesterday afternoon. My small group had an amazing but tiring day. We started out taking a walking tour of the art district of Paris, Montmartre, and visited La Sacre Coeur (The Sacred Heart). This is a beautiful church atop a hill in that district that has an amazing, awe-inspiring view of the city. The area around the landmark has many café’s and street artists, and it gets extremely busy during the afternoons.

This is mainly because actual Parisians go there to have lunch and see the church. Parisians don’t visit places like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame because of how “touristy” they’ve become, but The Sacred Heart still remains a favorite among locals. I was so excited to actually be a part of something they love instead of the typical tourist attractions. Of course, La Sacre Coeur has definitely become a tourist attraction, but it still has a different feel than the others.  At this place, Parisian artists can practice their crafts such as painting and drawing. I saw some of the most beautiful original paintings. I wanted to purchase one or two of them, but I realized it would be far too difficult to bring them back to The States.

After our wonderful afternoon inside Montmartre, we decided to backtrack back to the hotel to get a break from all the walking. It’s honestly amazing how much one walks while in Paris. Yesterday alone, we probably walked 10-15 miles throughout the city because we were too stubborn to buy a 1,80E ticket for the metro. However, I found walking is a great way of actually experiencing the city and stumbling upon things you wouldn’t normally see.  We decided to take the metro from Place de Clichy to a stop that we believed was close to the Louvre. We decided to walk down the riverside towards the Louvre. It was much, much—please don’t underestimate the emphasis—MUCH further than we anticipated. Although we were miles downriver, we decided to walk the riverside anyway. We came across Napoleon’s Tomb, two love-lock bridges, and many other amazing monuments before we actually reached the Louvre itself. And then we saw it.

It was completely massive—we didn’t even know where to go in .The Louvre is completely overwhelming both inside and out, and that is a complete understatement. I’ve never seen so many pieces of art in one place, and I’ve never been in such a large structure. I had no idea what to expect before going inside. Once I actually got inside, the only word to come out of my mouth was:

“Wow.” That’s it.

My head was darting from side to side trying to capture in all of the details—to practice my usual method of seeing new art—and it just didn’t work. I couldn’t capture every last bit of extraordinary detail the Louvre possessed. Even so, I didn’t have enough background on anything to truly know its significance. Every inch of every wall was carved or painted. Paintings cluttered each and every wall. Architecture occupied every room. I couldn’t even fathom that much history was piled into one place. We only made it through two sections before calling it quits—walking the Louvre is exhausting after walking miles downriver and throughout an entire district. However short, it’s an experience I’ll never forget. I even got to see The Mona Lisa, one of the most famous paintings of all time.

After the Louvre, we walked downriver further to the Latin District, a place with amazing cheap eats. We’ve been eating there at least once daily because of the prices, and the food has been absolutely amazing each time. I wish places like that existed in The States, but it seems impossible with how large it is. We gathered back on the lawn of the Louvre to rest after dinner and wait for the most anticipated event of the evening—The Impressionist Museum.

My expectations were high for this, I can’t deny. I love impressionist paintings. I love Monet. I love Manet. I event found a new love for Alfred Sisley, a painter I never got to study while in school. To make it even better, it was free admission at 9:30 and they had a Van Gogh exhibit entitled “The Man Suicided by Society” which I was very anxious to see. The experience did not let me down, and I am very excited to say it was my favorite part of the trip so far. I saw the paintings I studied in my classes in the flesh. I found new paintings and painters to admire.  I was absolutely humbled by the Van Gogh exhibit. Each and every room had something I absolutely adored.  There’s just something about impressionism that I really identify with. I love the style and I love the meaning of depicting light and its changing qualities and how it affects its surroundings. I find it extremely calming and inspiring. My favorite aspect of it is a painter’s ability to make reflections in water in an impressionistic style—each time I’m awed by how beautiful and accurate the strokes are.

Yesterday was probably one of the most history-filled, knowledgeable days of my young life, and I learned so much I will never forget. I’ve been so humbled by this city and the rich background it possess.  It has been one of the most exhausting, but definitely one of my favorite days of the trip so far. Hopefully one day I can make it back to the Louvre to walk its many halls.
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Minding The Gap

“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining the future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” – John Green,  Looking for Alaska

While in London, my favorite visit so far, I experienced the wonders of The Tube—London’s underground subway system that is the main transportation method for most locals. Honestly, I absolutely adored their system. Not only is it completely “idiot proof,” but it was also convenient to every place I wanted to go within the city and fast as a rocket in doing so. My heart yearns for a system like this back home. Although the T in downtown Pittsburgh is making some progress, it is nowhere near the level that is the tube. I adored it so much; I even got a t-shirt dedicated to it. How super touristy of me!

While on the tube, the overhead will say “Mind the Gap” before the doors of the subway close and the train takes off to its next destination. When I heard this sentence for the first time, I had no idea what it was talking about.  Sometimes the small language barrier the Brits have with Americans can be a little interesting.

“Mind the…gap? Mind it…? What?”

Eventually I figured out that it was referring to paying attention to the space between the train and the platform so you don’t get your leg caught in-between them.  I’m not actually sure if this sort of thing is possible, but regardless I made sure to listen just in case. Just from traveling via Tube (specifically on the Piccadilly Line), it became one of my favorite phrases that I learned while in London, along with a view other fun phrases I plan to take back home.

I also realized that not only could I take this phrase back home with me, but I could take it as a life lesson. Mind the gap between who you are now and you who want to be—between the past and the future—it’s the present. Pay attention and be aware of the present. Be mindful of where you are and what you’re doing in the moment. Take time to enjoy your life. Experience everything you can. Make mistakes—again and again and again.

The present is rough place to be, I understand. That’s why it becomes so easy to get stuck on the past or keep your mind on the future—anything to keep from thinking about the here and now. The stress and anxiety of everyone’s day-to-day lives make it easy to want to escape. I’m challenging everyone to become bold enough to stand tall in their present. Don’t mind the present with distractions. Don’t take the uncertainty and in-betweens negatively.

You can only run away from the present so far until it comes back around and hits you harder, probably knocking you over in the process. Staying stuck on the past is only hurting yourself, and the fantasy of the future is only taking away from who you are as a person now.  Using coping mechanisms to sooth these uncertainties will only help for so long. Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, social media, television—it doesn’t matter. If I’ve learned anything from my English classes in college, it’s about pipe dreams—illusions that everyone has to escape the negativity in their own lives. Everyone has a vice to sooth the wounds. Everyone uses a method of escape—to turn off their minds to the constant thoughts and worries. We just need to be strong enough to disconnect from those vices and face ourselves in the present and grab hold of who we are now.

I’ve personally had to deal with this battle. When I was younger, I used to be stuck in the past. Now that I’m older, I keep fantasizing about the future of where my life will be in 10 years. Truthfully, I’m usually anywhere but here. I’m usually anywhere but now. I need to take a step back and disconnect from distractions that are only meant to take me away from the person I am meant to be. It’s hard trying to find yourself, but it’s even harder if you won’t give yourself the opportunity.  This trip has made me realize that disconnecting from distractions and being mindful of the present is an amazing achievement. Mind the gap.
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The Power of Intention and Self Motivation

 “Five seagulls are sitting on a dock. One of them decides to fly away. How many seagulls are left?”
“Well..four.”
“No,” he responded. “There are still five. Deciding to fly away and actually flying away are two very different things. Listen to me carefully. Despite popular belief to the contrary, there is absolutely no power in intention. The seagull may intend to fly away, may decide to do so, may talk to the other seagulls about how wonderful it is to fly, but until the seagull flaps his wings and takes air, he is still on the dock. There’s no different between him and all the others. Likewise, there is no difference in the person who intends to do things differently and the one who never thinks about it in the first place.” –Andy Andrews, The Noticer

The power of intention is a tricky concept to run around the mind. It’s tricky because you do it to yourself. You basically lie to yourself about something else and consciously choose to take the lie you’ve told yourself as the truth instead of the lie it really is. It doesn’t matter that your intentions are pure and have the right motivations.  There may be all the intention in the world do actually do something, but until one actually does it, it means entirely nothing.

For instance, I trick myself all the time into thinking I’m going to accomplish things that never end up becoming accomplished. How often have I said (possibly you also) “Oh, I’ll get to that homework assignment later” or “I’m going to start running again and stick with it this time” or “I’m going to start writing a book like I’ve always wanted to.” Yet nothing ever happens. My homework gets pushed off until the last minute, I quit running after a month, and I haven’t started writing a book even though I’ve always wanted to.  I don’t continue the things that make me happy.

Even though I may have the intention to accomplish those tasks, the follow-through in my personal life is lacking. I can attest this to my lack of self- motivation—emphasis on self—but not how you think. I do have the ability to motivate myself for normal things. However, if it comes to choosing between motivating myself or motivating a close friend—I choose them.  I’m always the one who loves helping other people with their lives; that’s me. I will look after someone else’s life before my own. I love seeing others happy more than I reflect on my own happiness. I mean….making others happy IS what makes me happy. But it’s also what’s holding me back in my own life. I need to stop being “the rock” in my friend’s lives and start becoming my own self-motivater.  I mean how will I ever succeed if I don’t check in on what I’m doing for myself instead of all the things I’m doing for others?

I’ve realized that  I’ve been doing this with the progression of my own career. I motivate others in pursuit of their dreams but I lack on motivating myself enough with my own because my uncertainty is bubbling to the surface. I’ve always wondered if I’m in the right place, in the right major, or taking the right steps. Throughout this trip, I’ve seen professionals in multiple areas of the communications field that have truly inspired me to do better for myself so I can succeed and be the person I want to be, espeically the ones in Public Relations and Advertising. 

Anton Perreau from Battenhall—an agency based out of London, England—showed me how an agency can go from a startup to a huge entity with major clients. He made me realize how much passion is needed for the profession in order to stick with something you believe in. Working for a startup company is difficult enough, but being a part of its growth stage is even more difficult because of all the changes. When he presented his agency, he made it sound so fulfilling to him. I could tell when he went to work, he wasn’t really going to work. If there were projects the agency didn’t want to do, they didn’t do them.  The ones they did want to do, they did above expectations. They have a strategy for their clients that I believe works very well for them, and I applaud their ability to adapt and innovate. They’ve created so many useful tools for PR—from internal applications for their employees to a different application for each client for communication. Everything is always different, and they always look towards an innovative, unique solution for each individual client—and they have fun doing it. I aspire to do the same in my own career.

Irma and Stephane from Disneyland Paris showed me that you can work for one of the largest companies on the globe and still have a smile on your face every day you come to work. I’ve never seen people that excited over their jobs. They made ME excited over their jobs. I walked out of the room thinking, “How absolutely wonderful it would be to be a public relations representative for Disneyland Paris” and meaning it with ever fiber of my being. They made me feel the spirit of Disney more than I ever had before. Their videos on the 20th anniversary case study of Disney moved me. Some of the videos almost had me in tears—and that’s what great PR is. It connects the message to your personal views and evokes that emotional connection. It was beyond amazing how much I admired their creativity.

Philippe Béteille, President of Ketchum Paris, showed us valuable opinions on the PR market and explained how PR has evolved in France compared to other countries. He asked our group three questions during our presentation that really impacted me—referring to pursuing a career in public relations. It really solidified my understanding of what kind of person is needed to do the job and how much I identify with the career I’ve chosen.

1. Are you curious about absolutely everything?
2. Do you know how to write and do you LOVE it? (emphasis on love)
3. Are you able to work in a team?

 Yes! Yes to all of it. I’m a constant learner and I love hearing stories and talking about new concepts (You’re reading about the girl who watches the history channel for fun). The only way I can work through anything in my mind is if I write about it, and I love working with others to form solutions, because I’ve always believed three-ten minds are much better than one. Gaining the perspective of multiple individuals will always allow for a better solution.

Coming full circle, each different professional I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on this trip that had anything to do with my major at Point Park has renewed a sense of self-motivation in myself that I’ve been struggling to find while at home rerunning the same routine each day. It’s a sense of drive that I wouldn’t have gained without coming to England and France, and has allowed me to push all of my uncertainty in my life aside. I finally realize that this IS what I’m meant to do; I just need to actually do it. The power of intention is an illusion; action from self-motivation will go much further.

Actions speak louder than words, in every aspect of your life. Don’t just say—DO!
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The Average

“You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there.” – Maya Angelou

From time to time I’ll hear this theory regarding personality and socialization. In short, it states that you—with all your traits and wonderful parts—are the average of the five most important people in your life. You know, the five people you spend the most time with. This theory was observed by motivational speaker Jim Rohn. This relates to the law of averages, which is the theory that the result of any given situation will be the average of all outcomes.

Now this is a theory for reason—theories haven’t been proven. I’m sure this hasn’t been tested and there’s no definite proof of its workings, but I still have a point, I promise. The reason I’m bringing this theory up is that it discusses influences on the human condition and how someone or something can change you or make you the person that you are today. I’ve always thought this concept to be very important. That’s why we’re always told to surround ourselves with positive people who believe in us and bring us up, and do away with those who only hinder our success in our lives. It’s really all related to the same concept in a round-a-bout sort of way (France really digs their round-a-bouts by the way, completely unrelated.)

Okay so I know this is a deep concept and you’re probably thinking “Where the heck is she getting at, this is a school blog”, but I think that’s what this blog is supposed to be about. I didn’t want to write about my day-to-day activities in Europe. Of course they’re amazing and I’m having a wonderful time and I enjoyed all of the attractions and etc., but take a step back. This trip was meant to expose us and change us. Of course it was fun and educational, but it’s so much more than that.

It’s about perspective.
It’s about meaning.
It’s about influence.
It’s about constantly learning.
It’s about finding what’s really important in life

We’re all searching, even if we won’t talk about it. So hear me out as I delve into this.

If we’re the average of everyone we spend the most time with, I’m going to go ahead and just assume that we’re also the average of all of our senses. Everywhere we’ve been, everything we’ve heard, everything we’ve eaten, and everything we’ve seen all influences us to be the person that we are today. During this trip, I had many first exposures that have helped shape me.

I saw: The Arc de Triumph, beautiful architecture at the Louvre, The Tower of London, Gothic and Roman architecture, two beautiful and unique countrysides, Mont St. Michael, cobblestone streets, quaint towns, public transportation systems that were actually efficient, The Sleeping beauty castle at Disneyland Paris, street art, the inside of an authentic pub, Borough Market: the most amazing outdoor market, the sparkle of the Eiffel Tower at night, candles burning at the Sacred Heart, a Medieval town encased by ramparts, the crown jewels of England, the largest Ferris wheel I’ve ever laid eyes on, and platform 9 ¾–the place where my childhood both began and ended.
I experienced: the salt in the sand at Mont St. Michael, the pastries in the bakery as I walked by, the smell of gas from motorcycles, freshly made crepes in the morning, recently mowed grass at the cemetery in Normandy, river water along La Seine, sewage on the underground metro, the most amazing gelato I’ll ever have in my young life, goat cheese—my new favorite cheese, bread with every meal, apple brandy that can only be bought in Normandy, St. Malo’s version of Coca Cola, A raspberry pastry that was unlike any other, espresso-also a new obsession, authentic Indian food that I will rave about until my dying days, amazing beers, language differences and language barriers, street performers, “Mind the gap,” the sound of the ocean’s tide coming to shore, live music,

All of these exposures will help shape me for the future, and I’m so thankful that I now have these experiences as a part of who I am. I want to continue be influenced by different cultures and discover other ways of living. I want to see all that I can see within my means and learn all that I can about the world.

Wherever you go and whatever you do, you become a part of it and it becomes a part of you. We are everything we’ve ever seen and everywhere we’ve ever been, and I intend to be more.
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Exposure and Continuous Learning

“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at the time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” –Azur Nasifi

Before this trip I thought I was exposed to a lot of aspects of life, but I’ve finally realized how limited my experiences were. I believed I had learned so much, but I’ve only scratched the surface of history and culture and everything surrounding it.

Throughout this journey, I have been exposed to the most amazing art that I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. Some people will go their entire lifetimes without making the trip, and I feel sorry for those people. My favorite of these was the Musee D’Orsay—the impressionist museum in Paris. According to our tour guide, “American women love their impressionism,” but I can’t help it if that’s the truth! I really do love my impressionism; I’ve always thought it was my favorite time period of art. Of course it’s girly by nature, but I’ve always loved the way light affects an area and how that can be portrayed through drawings.  I was impressed the most by the reflections some artists created in reflections of water. They managed to create such a real representation of a surrounding area through the water, and I thought that type of applied distortion was a great accomplishment (keep in mind my drawing skills have not surpassed stick figures.)

We also had the privilege of visiting the Louvre, which was a major exposure to me for two reasons. The first being that it held the most paintings, architecture, old knick knacks, and sculptures that I’ve ever seen. The second reason being that it exposed me to a life I had no context to know anything about—the life of the royals. The Louvre’s massive construction was due to the fact that King Louis. XIV used it as his actual home—of course until he thought it was too “small” of a palace and built a new one. However it isn’t small and the inside of its walls is covered in beautiful paintings from ceiling to floor and gold trim. It was breathtaking. How amazing it must have been to live in such luxury! I never knew a place could be so beautiful. I was exposed to the life of royalty again at the Tower of London, where I saw the crown jewels for the first time. They were absolutely stunning, and I was they allowed pictures in the Tower so I could have revisited the moment later.  Realizing that all of those jewels were actually used on a day-to-day basis in those times was amazing.  I still can’t grasp the lifestyle.

The person who has made me realize how much I have to learn about art and culture is our tour guide for this trip, Vincent. I honestly wish I knew as much about history and culture as he does. I can’t fathom how much he has put into his career in doing the activities he finds enjoyable—which is basically his job. I’ve never known someone to know so many languages or have so much history compiled into their mind. He’s shown me that there’s always something new to learn and always another story to tell. There is always a book you haven’t read or a place you’ve yet to go. He always managed to enlighten our group with a story or make us laugh with facts—even made us reenact scenes from history to get us more into the culture.

Cheers to you, Vincent, because you’ve impacted my life more than you could possibly realize. I’ve finally realized that life is all about continuous learning. There is always something new you can dip your mind into, and I’m going to try and take it upon myself to learn new things that interest me—not just what I learn in school.  Honestly, because of this journey, I will never be the same person as I was. I think that’s a good thing.
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 The Conditions of Happiness

“Realize you can be happy in this moment for no reason. Otherwise, you eternally depend on conditions for happiness. Unconscious of this moment, you remain a victim of circumstances.”-Arthur Saftlass

Coming home from this trip was extremely long—I mean probably a total of around 12 hours traveling by either bus or plane to get to the correct destination. What made it even worse was that some of my fellow students didn’t even receive their luggage! Thankfully, my luggage managed to get on the plane home. I’m not sure why a few of us managed and the rest were left behind, but  I digress.

I’ve been home for a few days. I’ve given my souvenirs to my family, I’ve heard “how was your trip!” about 10-15 times a day from people at both of my workplaces and my friends, and I’ve been happy to talk about the experience with everyone.  When I talk about it, I get so elated! I just want my overjoyed reaction to project onto the other person and make them just as happy as I am about the entire thing. I want them to feel my excitement and my appreciation and everything surrounding the trip. It was nothing short of amazing, and each time I talk about it I make sure to tell the person I’m speaking with to try and save up for travel.

I’ve also realized since I returned home that my emotions kind of went down. I almost felt unhappy that I was home, and it shouldn’t be like that. Nothing was entertaining me that much and I found that I hated work more than usual and I didn’t feel like doing anything. It was horrible. I seriously felt like I was in a rut.  Naturally, I went to my best friend to talk to her about everything I’ve been feeling since I got home. This is what she said:

“When you go on a trip like that you’re on this really good emotional level and everything’s happy and everything’s new and you feel like you’re on a natural high. It’s normal to feel down when you come home to the same thing you left.”

And I hope she’s right, because these feelings aren’t my every day ones! I’m usually a fairly happy, outgoing person. But I feel like I left part of myself in Europe and I need to go get it or something. I feel like something’s missing at home that I didn’t feel was missing before. It’s going to take me awhile to sort all this out, but I know I’ve been changed by going on this trip in ways I can’t even comprehend yet. I feel like I need to do more, see more, be more—just MORE.

Maybe I’ve caught the travel bug, but even so, I don’t want my mood to be dependent on what happens to me.  We can’t choose our experiences, we can only choose our reaction and where we go from there. I’m so thankful for this trip, and I’m not going to let being home bring me down. It’s very clear that I don’t feel like I belong here anymore, but I’m not sure where I want to go next.  Regardless ,until I find out where I want to be and what I want to do, I’m going to be happy and not be a victim of circumstances. 

Au revoir!
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Nobody ever takes a picture of something they want to forget.

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