Liz Gets Schooled

Hello, my lovelies.  How I’ve missed you!

I come with, what seems on the surface to be “bad”news.  A couple weeks ago I sealed my beloved Peace Corps Passport, a long with two copies of an application for a visa to Guinea, and four passport photos of yours truly into a UPS 2nd day air mail envelope and shipped off to DC in good faith.  On August 24, I did a routine search through my Spam folder just to see if anything important got sucked into there by mistake, and I see two emails from “UPS” with the headings “Your package cannot be delivered” and the like.  I panic, but when I open the email it becomes obvious to me that these emails are spam using my recent search history to bait me into opening them.  Still, worried, I went to the official UPS site and tracked my package and saw that all was well, and it would be delivered the next day.

I logged off and thought nothing more of it.  Until..

Last Thursday I was sitting in the waiting room of the travel clinic to get my Typhoid “booster” when I get a call from my Response Recruiter, Jill.  She is wondering if I’ve sent my Visa application.  My stomach drops.  Turns out my package was in fact lost.  Remember, my package was not lost when I received those bogus emails, but afterward, and yet here I was calling (harassing) UPS customer service centers all over kingdom-come.  I tracked it’s last known whereabouts in Davenport, Ia.  Kathy, the service rep, was simply heavenly.  I could hear her searching through their “overhead,” but for not.  She does assure me that she’ll do everything she can to find it.

I called Jill worrying that this was going to affect my chances of being a Response volunteer.  She assures me that I will still go, but may have to postpone my departure to the end of October.  I admit, I was very sad for two reasons.  I was so emotionally ready to be off again, and I loved that passport.  This was the passport that I backpacked across Africa.   All those lovely stamps!  I wanted to keep it as a souvenir.  I loved to proudly flip through those pages and look at all my visitor’s visas.  That was an accomplishment I hoped to share with my future children to plant that wanderlust seed in their hearts.  So please, if you are reading this, pray, wish on a star, think positive vibes, cast a spell, whatever that the passport is found and returned to me. Even if I don’t get it back in time to get the visa for Guinea to leave in September, I do hope to have it back.

Now I have begun to make peace with staying State-side for another month, however reluctantly.  I’m trying very hard to change my perspective on this, to be more positive and hopeful that this is all for the best.

Remember in my last post how I was trying to figure out how much to spill in this blog?  (If not, then scroll down).  Basically, I’ve begun to realize that as a writer, you have to make a conscious decision on how much you are willing to give away.  Personally, I would write my entire story, all thoughts, sins, and snarky comments for you to judge, but when your life includes other people you have to be discrete.  My words can hurt them.  That being said, I’m going to try to write simply from my perspective, without crossing any boundaries or embarrassing anybody I care about.  Here goes.

This summer shall forever remain ingrained in my memory as “the Ex Files 2012.”  No, we’re not talking about science fiction, as much as I love the genre.  All I will say that any guy from my past with whom I have held any sort of residual feeling came back into my life and then very promptly became completely unavailable to me.  I tried to maintain active friendships with them, but lines were blurred and feelings were confused.  And now geographically as well as emotionally, they are completely out, for the time being.  It literally happened in such a methodical way that it cannot be a coincidence.  While emotionally exhausting for me to have to say my final goodbyes, it has also been very cleansing.  It is like Life/the Universe/Whom-or-What-Ever has been cleaning house in my heart, making room for something (or someone) truly wonderful so that I can dedicate my whole self, free of baggage.  When I look on this transition in this way, I feel hopeful and…excited.  Possibilities.  Freedom.

Being in Cameroon on my own (which included replacing my shower and the pipes in my bathroom sink, taking care of rodents the cat brought in, and burying beloved kittens) showed me how strong I was.  I could live in a gigantic four-bedroom house in the middle of a foreign country alone, and thrive, even when I would wake up at 3am because of scary noises.  I could do it.  I also survived a dangerous encounter with three hippopotami, went sky diving, and continued to accomplish what I set out to do.  I can look back on these past few years with so much pride, and truly begin to believe in myself, as a person–not someone’s girlfriend or daughter or student, but as an adult.  This is huge.

I am determined to continue to work on myself.  I would love to try to eliminate jealousy, to love freely, to fight and argue in a loving way–without drudging up old resentments.  I’m not sure how, but I think Guinea is a part of this journey.  Also, as much as I was hoping to get out of Iowa and move on with this new, exciting adventure, I’m being given an opportunity to spend more time with my family (even if we’ve been getting on each other’s nerves), to work on my art, to prepare for applications that I am taking with me to Guinea for jobs/opportunities after this nine-month commitment.  The truth is, I don’t think I’ll “come home” again.  My parents are very welcoming when it comes to housing me during my “in between” times, but it’s time I find my own apartment in a new city and really start my life and shed these old dynamics.

So here I am given two gifts: the gift of a cleansed heart and the gift of time with my family.  I will not take these for granted.

People look for signs all the time.  My signs have been so obvious lately that even I can’t miss them.  Every single person I’ve talked to about my experiences have relished in my stories and insisted that I continue on this path.  I’ve been told by so many that I should put off settling down for having more adventures and that “all of that will come on its own time.”  I have to listen to them, these wise men and women.  Deep down inside, I have a slight gnawing fear that I am putting off settling down, have pushed away relationships to pursue a dream.  I’m scared that I will one day wake up and find myself alone, without family, too old to start one.  I think this fear comes from the conditioning we receive in this society to be coupled up.  While I am perfectly open to being in love and being a partner again, for now, at least, I’m content with what I have.  I just read a book called Singled Out by Bella DePaulo.  It was delightful and empowering, and really made me conscious to a lot of my own prejudices.  I highly recommend it.  I will think about doing a full review of it in another post.  But something I took away from it is that women have been taught to have this deep fear of “having it all,” and deep down believe it’s not possible.  It’s time we let go of that fear of future regret and just live as fully and lovely as possible.  I mean, how can you go wrong if you do this?  So, okay Universe, I trust you completely.

All in all, lessons learned:  Trust that the decisions you carefully made were the right ones.  Learn to let go–of resentments, jealousies, people, and yes, sometimes love.  You have to make room for good things to come into your life, and while this is painful, it will be entirely worthwhile.  And, finally, the UPS has way too many passports sitting around in their overhead that they evidently do not return to their owners.

Much love.

Yours, Liz

Liz Does Relationships (and the world-traveling modern female)

Alright you all, I’m about to go down on the dirty.  No, I’m not going to give explicit details from my own personal life (uh, yeah right), but I am going to try to collect and present my observations on love (and lust) for the world traveler in some sort of coherent and meaningful way (if I fail, which is probable, let’s call it well-intentioned ramblings from the Road).

Doesn't it kind of look like she wants to get away?

As far as personal stories go, I will admit to this, that I ended up sacrificing a five year relationship with a great guy to satisfy my own wanderlust.  And I also can say that I believe I made the right decision.  Follow your dreams, or you’ll live to regret it, right?  That’s the adage, and if current pop culture has anything to say (and they’re always saying something), then eventually you’ll end up with both the dream career with the dream partner.   Boy as hopeful as I would like to be, the cynic in me says “not always the case.”

Let’s take the world traveling female, for example (sorry, boys, I’m not going to attempt to write your experiences, and sorry, ladies, because I will attempt to write–perhaps generalize–yours).  At this juncture in my life (I love the word ‘juncture’), I do not foresee “settling down” anywhere in the near future.  And YET! I hold on to the assumption that I will find a partner and be able to have a family–One Day.  But, biologically speaking, I should probably be at least considering that “one day” might come too late and I may find myself ready for the whole family-caboodle, but sterile and ALONE.  After all, as this article from ABC News states,

By the time a woman hits 30, nearly all of her ovarian eggs are gone for good, according to a new study that says women who put off childbearing for too long could have difficulty ever conceiving.

The study published by the University of St. Andrews and Edinburgh University in Scotland found that women have lost 90 percent of their eggs by the time they are 30 years old, and only have about 3 percent remaining by the time they are 40.

And as I am about to turn 26, and wasn’t even planning on beginning to think about having a baby until I was well into my 30s, it looks like I just may be fucked (or maybe I should be getting fucked that is).  I recently had a conversation with a friend, a fellow world traveler but male, who expressed many of my own beliefs about this whole “settling down and having a family” thing.  He said that, basically, he doesn’t feel that marriage is necessary if two people love and are committed to each other, and he’s all for traveling and living the “ex-pat” life.  Men, however, can have children so long as they’re cranking the stuff out (which can be well into their seventies and beyond), do not have to physically carry the baby to term (or breast feed, or feel bloated and fat), and for some reason women tend to go for the older man (even I have been known to have a few hopeless crushes on the balding, bespectacled 40+-somethings), meaning they have it easier if they want to “have it all.”

Even if we are to put the whole fertility issue aside (because seriously what better way to get into a guy’s pants than to harp on and on about your biological clock?) there’s the whole logistics of it all.  My current short-term plans (let’s say five years) involve me moving around A LOT, and we’re talking a series of trans-continental moves.  What are the odds of finding someone who would be willing to drop everything and come along for the ride?  Even a fellow wanderer, who lives for travel, may have a different location in mind.  And, from personal experience, long-distance relationships are straining, and sometimes unsatisfying (if the distance and time apart are significant).  One of the reasons why my long-distance relationship ended was simply that neither of us were getting enough of the benefits of being in a relationship to stay in it (and both of us too poor for visits to be an option).  There is only so much intimacy one can transmit through the satellite projections of two cellular phones (that is how they work, right?) and the unfeeling Times New Roman, black letters on a white screen, achievable through email.   We physically need touch.  So, that leaves us with only one answer…

PROMISCUITY!  (Just kidding, take a breath, Mom.)  But seriously, let’s consider this for a moment.  Now, I consider myself a modern feminist.  I would like to fancy myself capable of throwing out the old, tired, traditional image of “Boy meets Girl; Boy dates Girl; Boy marries Girl; and Boy and Girl live happily ever after with 2.1 kids, white picket fence, and a mortgage,” for a newer, hipper image!  An image that screams, “I don’t need anybody!”  Picture it, a young woman moving around, independent but not alone, lovers all over the world, not ONE BIG LOVE, but many, passionate love affairs.  This lady is cool, in every sense of the word.  If she decides she wants to be a parent, she makes it happen (hello sperm bank/willing participant)–no strings attached!  She can do it all, and all on her own.  The elusive, ‘uncatchable’ female.  Do I want to be this woman?  HELL, yes!  I would LOVE to be that independent and strong, but if I’m to be brutally honest with myself (and you poor readers who made the mistake of clicking on this link), it’s not what I really want.

I’d like to “One Day” find a guy willing to be my partner, one who wants the same things in life, and willing to shoulder some of the burden.  I believe a healthy relationship is when two people join together and commit to be honest with each other, have fun together, support each other, whose mere presence inspires each to be their best possible self, and who are moving in the same direction.  I also believe, that if the time comes that they must go separate ways, they should be able to say “I love the person that you are, and I will cherish our memories together forever; however, it’s not working out anymore, and I wish you the best.”  There doesn’t have to be drama or jealousy because love isn’t about ownership; two people can be together while maintaining their identity and freedom.

Okay, so I’ve talked myself into a mess.  I have no more answers than when I started this post, and in fact, feel a bit more confused.  I do know because of a recent experience, that as much as I love being independent and on my own (and the pride of knowing that I can thrive by myself), I actually miss having someone to hold me, talk to me, and that fun that comes from slowly opening yourself up to someone and they to you.  As my girl Tracy Chapman says, “I don’t want no one to squeeze me; they might take away my life; I just want someone to hold me and rock me through the night.”  For now, anyway, and maybe One Day just might come…