I’m an over packer in every sense of the word. If you know me, you know how absolutely absurd that is, considering I own about five t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, and a pair of jeans. I suppose I’m more of a “just in case” kind of packer. I packed around 10 books in my suitcase (seven of which I’ve read before,) and brought them to Thailand with me “just in case” I wanted to read them again. Unnecessary? Yes. Have I read them again? Also, yes. My suitcases aren’t the only thing that get stuffed with unnecessary “just in case” things. I’m finding that I’ve been over packing my life with a lot of unnecessary. Filling and stuffing my mind and my schedule with meaningless things to keep me busy.
I was sitting in a living room in Malaysia with a few of my new lifelong friends, and one of them asked me what my New Year’s Resolution was. I’ve never been the resolution type, but it’s been a year of big changes for me, and a blank page and a clean slate sounds rather exciting. So I got to thinking and I got to dreaming. Thinking about what my life should look like, and dreaming about what my life could look like.
I found myself wrestling with this question,
“WHO WERE YOU BEFORE THE WORLD TOLD YOU WHO YOU SHOULD BE?”
Who was I before the world convinced me that I should be a college graduate with a 9-5 job? Who was I before the world convinced me that financial security was the key to living a good life? Who was I before the world convinced me that following Jesus meant going to church on Sunday’s and reading my Bible a few times a week? Because I’m finding that those things were just not meant for me. And I hope that you allow yourself the time and space to question whether or not those things were meant for you either. Has anyone ever told you that it is okay if they aren’t?
While I was in Malaysia, my friend Adria and I were stopped by two surveyors in the mall. We were on our way to something better and didn’t have the time or desire to stop and answer meaningless questions about our experience in the mall. But if God is teaching me anything about my time here, it’s how to live unhurried and how to be interruptible. He’s teaching me how to see the people He intentionally places in our paths, and He’s teaching me to allow time for relationships and conversations. Because there is time. So we stopped and we took their ten minute long survey. After we got done, we asked their names. We asked about their lives and their family and what they liked to do. And before we knew it, we were knee deep in conversations about Jesus and passions and insecurities that hold us back. One of our new friends mentioned that she had a passion for writing, but she never felt like she was good enough, and never felt like she had a story worth telling. I watched as Adria took that opportunity to speak words of life and hope and encouragement to her, and I watched those words pierce her heart in a way that I hadn’t ever seen before. Her eyes filled with tears and her smile showed her teeth and her shoulders relaxed as though they dropped a little bit of the weight they’d been carrying for so long. She somehow looked lighter, happier. The look on her face reminded me of my friend Po. Po is a beggar that stays on the street corner near one of my favorite coffee spots in Chiang Mai. The funny thing about this coffee shop, is that I’ve been walking there every single day for a good portion of my time here in Thailand, and it’s only been open twice (typical Thailand). But I keep walking the two miles to that coffee shop every single morning, because I want to see Po. At first, I would bring him things. Money, food, etc. But he never really seemed interested in any of it. He’d toss it to the side and he would reach out for my hand and pull me close to him. He wanted nothing more than to hold my hand. To feel less alone for a few minutes. So I go and I hold hands with Po every morning. He tells me I’m beautiful in Thai, and I tell him I love him in English. And for those few minutes each morning, we both feel a little less lonely. Also, after writing this down, I think we might be dating.
There are few things in this world that excite me as much as these interactions do. The real, the raw, the vulnerable. The connection of humanity that’s found only in sharing our fears and failures. Watching truth and love overcome all of these things, together. Who was I before the world told me who I should be? I was this. I was a soul that craved human connection and a soul that wanted to be doing whatever Jesus was doing. Somewhere along the way, I lost those two simple things that made me who I was. I was busy. Busy working two jobs and finishing a degree and building a life that wasn’t really mine. Building a life that gave me a good answer when someone asked me what I was doing with it. I don’t want to be a good answer. In fact, when someone asks me what my life is about, I don’t want it to be confined to an answer. Rather, an invitation. I don’t know what my life looks like right now or what it’s going to look like in a few months or in a few years, but I know what Jesus looks like, and I’m convinced that’s all I need.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re reading a blog from another idealistic kid who decided to pack up all their things and move to a different country. Because at the end of the day, making friends doesn’t pay the bills, right? And I know your mind is racing with a thousand different reasons of why this lifestyle isn’t realistic. I said before that I want my life to be an invitation. So, if you will, put those thoughts to sleep for just a moment, and come with me. Come with me to a little world I like to call, “Why not?” One of my friends told me that she wanted to do hard things. And I like that. Because living the life you want is going to involve hard things. It’s going to force you to redefine your needs. It’s going to stretch you and make you uncomfortable and it’s probably going to suck a lot. Here’s what redefining need looks like in my own life: I live on approximately $3 a day in Thailand. I don’t spend money on public transportation (hence the 300 miles on foot), I eat around one meal a day, and I don’t buy any material items. I sleep on a bed that feels more like a table, and my shirt and my socks both have holes in them right now. I brushed my teeth in a bucket of dirty water last week and sometimes my life feels like a really long camping trip. Now let me invite you into the doors this lifestyle has opened for me. I’ve been to four countries in the last two months, and I’m going to four more this month. I’ve dipped my toes into two different oceans and jumped into a waterfall with monks. I’ve seen a monkey steal a woman’s lunch and scrubbed mud all over an elephant. I got back from Malaysia two days ago, and I think I’d like to take a trip somewhere else tomorrow. So I’m going to hop on a bus to Pai and come back whenever I feel like it. I’ve learned that life is about knowing what you need, and getting rid of the things that aren’t that. Because having less has opened the door to so much more for me.
MY GOALS THIS YEAR? TO SAY YES.
To be a little more here and now and a little less where I need to be. To be more about people and less about schedules. And to trust that God will do something with a life that embraces interruptions.
What do I hope for you this year? I hope that your kids are late for school. Because they had a hard morning and you decided to love them a little longer. I hope that you skip the gym and invite and old friend to coffee. I hope that you hold hands with strangers and ask your waitress about her family. My prayer is that one by one, you’ll make this world a little more together, and a little less isolated. I hope that you’ll come with me.
So I guess this brings me to my long winded overdue New Year’s Resolution.
Pack light, love heavy.
Until next time,