Well, I've been here just over a month now. Oh infamous time that can seem so short and so fast all at the same time. Honestly, it seems like years are piling up a lot faster on me lately than they ever used to. What's up with that? It seems in some ways as though I've already been here long enough to feel home like, and yet it's also a bit strange to realize how quickly the months are going to slip out form underneath me.
This weekend my friend Crystal came to hang out, seeing as how my other two teammates went out of town, and we had a great time just wandering around town in the rain and then sitting back in my flat talking and watching TV. She made a comment that will undoubtedly seem strange to those who have lived overseas, but should ring true for those who have. Her comment was this, "isn't it hard to remember sometimes that we're living in Europe?" Even as we walk around amidst ancient buildings that predate American history, I couldn't help but nod in agreement. It's amazing how quickly the tourist views that captivate on first arrival become the familiar surroundings of home, now taken for granted.
One of my goals for this year is to live life intentionally. It's a common goal for me, and one I have to remind myself of often. I think I was about 15 when I visited my friend Mindy from summer camp, and noticed how she would write little notes on her calendar every day. At that moment I was struck by a thought that sort of shook me. While it is easy to concentrate on enjoying moments like holidays or birthdays or big events, it is difficult to keep in mind that each and every day happens only once. Whether good, or bad, that day will never be repeated. Every September 30th is unique.
When I got home from visiting my friend I began keeping track of my days. It started with Calendar squares, quickly filled to the bursting point with such scrawled and tiny script that no one would ever dare attempt to read it, then evolved into my daily journaling routine on June 14, 1996 when I headed off for my summer with Teen Missions in Italy. Since that date, I have made special note of every single day that has transpired. I have tried to keep in mind that each day is a gift in it's own way. Even the days I would rather forget entirely have played a part in the making of me.
So many times I find myself forgetting that the things God has allowed me to do, really are unique. About two months ago I missed my ten year high school reunion. (I was at training and couldn't go.) I'd been thinking of this reunion for a couple of years before it took place. I wondered where all those people I hadn't thought of in ages might have ended up. I was curious to see what they had done with their lives. At the same time, I felt as though I'd done so little in comparison to my expectations of them. I was sure I would discover that most were married with families, careers, houses, and pets. 5 years ago, when I received the letter I'd written to myself as a senior in high school, I experienced a lot of anger and regret. I had done so few of the things my 18 year old self had charged me with. I was still single, drifting, unpublished...the list goes on. And now, 5 years later, none of those things have changed. 10 years have somehow slipped away with little to show for it in the typical way. My earthly possessions are, indeed, few. My bank account leaves much to be desired. I feared that if I went to that reunion I would be faced by my lack of accomplishments, my failure to become the people others, and I myself, had expected me to be.
Then a little light goes on in my head. Why should I have to compare myself to what other people have done? Have I not traveled all over the world? Have I not spent more than two and a half years living overseas? Not to mention braving a year in Alaska? I may not have a lot of obvious proof of achievement, but my time has not been wasted. And while my life just seems normal to me, when I really think about it, I know that few people my age have had the chance to do the things that I have done. True, there are people who have done more, but there is value in being who I am.
So here I sit, comfortably settled in Cheb, Czech Republic. I can buy train tickets on my own, and travel to castles whilst being lulled by the passing scenery and the music that flows from my i-pod. I truly have been blessed. There is no denying it.
I still have no idea what the future holds. Each step is a vast mystery, a journey into the unknown. All I know is that I want to live each day. Not just exist, but really LIVE.
The sun is shining this evening, glinting off the leaves that are beginning to subside from green to yellow, some bursting to red. It is my prayer that I will not grow stagnant in autumn, but learn how to burn more brightly. Each day is a gift.