I wouldn't say that I have many favorites. I like a lot of things... a lot. But, picking just one and sticking with it just isn't my style. Where this trend dissolves, though, is in the category of movies. My favorite movie of all time has to be Big Fish. I am constantly finding ways to relate this movie to my life. Much of the film comprises of the tall tale memories of Edward Bloom's life. Bloom's life was one big fish story. He grew up the "biggest thing" his town had ever seen; he was the smartest, the best athlete, the most ambitious and so on. He was a goldfish in a tiny bowl that longed for the sea, a place more suited for his size.
"It occurred to me then, that perhaps the reason for my growth was that I was intended for
larger things. After all, a giant man can't have an ordinary-sized life."
He decided to leave his town, ready for the adventure of a lifetime. But, on his first adventure (taking a scary, mysterious short cut instead of the wide, long road with his friend Karl, an actual giant) he managed to get lost, be attacked by giant spiders, and end up in the Utopian town of Spectre.
Upon being greeted at the town's entrance, the mayor looked at his list and told Bloom that he wasn't scheduled to arrive in Spectre for many more years, but they were glad to have him anyway. Now in Spectre there are no streets or sidewalks, just a pristine bed of grass perfect for dancing, so there is no need for shoes. In fact, all residents of Spectre throw their shoes over a power line at the entrance to the town because there is no point in wearing them because no one ever leaves Spectre--no one except Edward Bloom. He decided that Spectre would be the perfect place to settle down... eventually. But he was only at the beginning of his adventure and had so much more to explore and discover. He fought back out of the treacherous path shoeless and eventually made it back to Karl on the main road.
Karl: "Friend, what happened to your shoes?"
Young Ed Bloom: [Looking down at his feet] "They kinda got ahead of me."
This past week, I think I let my shoes get ahead of me.
I have such great expectations for my life and the travel and adventures that I am going to experience. I have detailed pictures mapped out in my mind of me concurring the world, one big fish story at a time... but there are still seasons to life. Not every ambition and every goal is meant to be met now.
This week, my expectations did not match up with reality, and this left me feeling wrongly disappointed and incomplete. It wasn't fair of me to expect to be wandering the streets of Japan, eyes filled with wonder, following every impulse that tickled my spirit. It wasn't fair for me to long to be sleeping in hostels, befriending the locals, and not having a care when the last time I changed my clothes was. (I know to many this sounds strange, but to me it sounds magical :) )
Why? Because this trip is not just about me. I am traveling with another person with quite different expectations and desires for a week in Japan and with a completely different worldview and set of values. It isn't fair for me to selfishly disregard his experience and place my own before his. That's not how life should work.
Would I prefer to take on the roll of a rouge world traveler for a week in another country? Heck yes; without a doubt.
Is my time for that now? Perhaps not.
Will I get my chance eventually? Lord willing, yes.
Right now is the time for me to be introduced to my first foreign travel experience. It is a chance for me to slowly get oriented so I am better prepared for my future, more adventurous travel; travel where I am not staying at a secure Air Force base hotel complete with armed guards; travel where I do not have an itinerary and my direction is decided by the roll of a die; travel where I am responsible for me and not the desires of anyone else.
Needless to say, this week was very difficult for me. I felt very restricted and did not feel at all like I expected to feel. Jet lag sure didn't help my emotions either.
And that's okay.
What have I learned this week?
1) Take things as they come with an open mind. I need to do a better job at just lightening up when reality doesn't line up with my expectations. I am a big fish that sets my expectations extremely high. Sometimes life has different plans and wants me to wait for the right time for my big dreams to come true.
2) Be nice and embrace teachable moments. I admit that I got rather short with Charles this week because I felt like the two of our expectations for the week didn't match up. He was experiencing a lot of things for the first time--things that I have learned to take for granted--and it frustrated me to have to wait for him to have those experiences. That was selfish and unfair. Truth is that there are things that I have to learn from him and things that I can eagerly teach him.
3) Application, application, application. If I don't apply what I have learned from this difficult week, the rest of my trip in Japan will just keep getting harder, and I will eventually breakdown. If I do enter the rest of this trip with a fresh step and new attitude, the only way it can go is up.
So, I am going to choose to keep my feet in my shoes and my head on my shoulders. I am going to embrace the pace that this trip presents and look at everything as a learning experience for the future that may be applied to my life beyond this summer.
Above is this week's Brainwriting (an activitiy we usually do with the kids to reflect on things learned over the week). The picture on the right is an illustration of the grand expectations that I set for myself--cliff jumping in an exotic location complete with bonsai tree and sunny skies. The picture in the middle illustrates a rather cool experience Charles and I had where we were able to swim in the Tama River with some local youth. It wasn't exactly how I would have liked it to be, but it was still fresh and new. The picture on the left illustrates where I let my mind go after being poisoned by my unrealistic and unfair expectations. I might as well have been standing in a puddle in the rain with the sour attitude I had. The shoes and footprints at the bottom show how I let my shoes get ahead of me.
I have learned a lot, and am going to make the most of the rest of my summer.