Friday, September 25, 2015

Conversation Is Dying

Well, I guess I'm sort of like Taylor Swift, except instead of singing about people who've done me wrong, I write about them on my blog . . . I'll just slap on some red lipstick and call it good.

So here's one for the books: What is up with people being really bad at conversation? I think it's a dying art. Or skill. Or . . . Whatever it is, people are getting worse and worse at it. (Or maybe I'm just getting more and more incredible, so other people are worse by comparison!)

At any rate, I was disappointed by some conversation today. This person spent maybe . . . 45 minutes talking AT me. I tried to insert myself into the conversation, but I think he was irritated by it. He was right, right, right about everything in the world. He certainly didn't have the wherewithal to see that I had disengaged -- with my tight lips and "mm-hms."

Now, I understand that maybe this man has a personality flaw. Or general social cluelessness. But is it just me, or does that seem to be more and more common these days? Is it an effect of smartphones and texting? I feel like it's got to be. People just seem to have a hard time now making conversation if it doesn't involve some sort of digital device -- they either don't know how to talk at all, or they don't know how to involve the other person in dialogue. It's driving me nuts!

On a side note: I really hate it when people say "conversate" as though it's an actual word in the dictionary. (It's not!)

Thing I'm thankful for: Avocados! Oh, California . . . I am praying for rain!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A View of the Earth

I realize I'm behind on the Europe posts, but I'm having technical difficulties . . . Something's wrong with my phone, and I can't transfer photos to my laptop. Unless I can figure it out, I'll have to email 300+ photos to myself in batches of five, maybe. It stinks, and I'm working on it.

Until then, I have to introduce you to this gem:

A View of the Earth

It's the story of Michael J. Massimino, an engineer and former NASA astronaut, and his work on repairing the Hubble Space Telescope.

Now, I love The Moth, but of all the stories I've listened to, I'd say this one's my favorite. Massimino has the typical New York accent and can-do attitude that makes his story fun to listen to, but also, he has a unique perspective on loneliness that most people will never experience. He talks about being 350 miles away from Earth and feeling completely detached and intensely lonely: "I felt that I was by myself, and everything that I knew and loved and that made me feel comfortable was far away."

But then, after he completed his mission and came back to Earth, he said this:

I realized that at the time when I felt so lonely—that I felt detached from everyone else [. . .]—that really I never was alone. That my family and my friends and the people I worked with—the people that I loved and that cared about me—they were with me every step of the way.

I just really liked that. It was a reminder to me that we are never really alone. There's always someone else -- perhaps hundreds of miles away -- thinking of us or praying for us or trying to solve our problems. We may not realize it, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Thing I'm thankful for: Those NPR moments when I'm in the car, and I feel so alive and connected to humanity because of a story.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015


Well, I finally made it to Europe. France and Italy, to be specific. My good friend Nathan was interning in France for the summer, so it seemed like the ideal time to make a trip. Sure, I had always wanted to go to Switzerland or Germany or Austria or England or Ireland—or basically any country other than France, but France is where my friend was. I have passed up opportunity after opportunity to visit friends abroad, and the excuse I always gave myself was that I didn't have enough money. Or that I shouldn't spend my money on something so frivolous as travel.

I realize now, though, that there is nothing quite so un-frivolous as spending money on experiences. Studies show that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of things, and so I finally decided to give it a whirl. To spend money on a trip across the ocean for no other reason than to have fun.

But France??? The only thing I liked about France was the food. For some inexplicable reason, France was a country that never appealed to me. French was a language that sounded confusing and frustrating to learn, and the French people had a reputation for being rude—a trait that I simply cannot understand. So I planned a trip to Italy as well. In my mind, Italy would be the highlight, and France would be a side thing.

Ohhh, how I was wrong! France was wonderful. I knew Nathan lived closer to Nice than any other big city, but I didn't realize just how close. More specifically, I didn't realize that most of my trip would take place alongside the ocean. Cannes, Nice, Monaco, Cinque Terre—these are just some of the cities I walked through, and each offered an incredible view of the Mediterranean Sea, which is made of the most beautiful blue, clear water.

I am so happy to have seen such an interesting corner of the world. More importantly, though, I am happy to have seen it largely by myself. Nathan worked during the day, so I traveled alone for the most part. I fumbled through the French language alone, and I explored many of the narrow and winding streets alone. Here's what I discovered: Solitary travel is empowering. It makes me feel confident and strong. It gives me the feeling that I can do anything or that I have something big and meaningful inside myself.

Solitary travel also lends itself to making friends. I met people from Texas, Holland, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, and England, and even in faraway countries, I found that people were eager to talk my ears off about their lives and concerns. Even in faraway countries, I found ways to connect with people through asking a bazillion questions.

For the next week or so, I'll be posting pictures and stories of the most interesting happenings on my travels, and hopefully, my posts will convince you to visit the French and Italian Rivieras!

Thing I'm thankful for: the opportunity to travel; it doesn't escape me that I lead an extremely fortunate life.