Comfort zones & currencies.

It was early January, 2017. I was so inspired by a trip to Thailand two years prior, that I decided to expand my horizon, again. This time: Spain. It was my first trip to Europe. I had been exposed to Spanish food for some time, and now with my ever advancing curiosity of foreign lands, their history & culture, and of course food, I couldn’t wait to get there and get going.

I miss it. I miss traveling. I long for the day that this world doesn’t necessarily return to normal, but to a state where we can again live our lives,  share moments, and make memories with those in other places on this Earth. 

That said, back to the subject. Arriving in Spain wasn’t easy. Under-slept, after a quick layover in Ireland (just long enough for a Shepherd’s Pie), my enthusiasm was spent in a quick burst of adrenaline. A quick check-in to the hotel, and off for my first tapas experience. Gathering a few of the small bites Spanish cuisine is known for, it was all enough to keep me motivated. Then, reality set in. A similar vibe to when I wandered down Khaosan Road, Bangkok, Thailand, at 4am after 24 hours of travel, to be appeased with a bowl of Panang curry before surrendering to the exhaustion & near regret I had as I felt lost and out of my comfort zone, wondering, “What the hell did I get myself into?”

Luckily, I was able to remember this mindset. I was able to recall that even with doubts that I had, more or less, jumped into a completely foreign land knowing not a soul, nor a plan written in pen, that after regrouping & resting, I would again be back to a place of joy. Comforted with this experiential ideology, knowing this too would pass, I felt my feels. Soon after, my trip was back on course. What a couple weeks it was. I hadn’t traveled much growing up. A quick trip down I-5 to Disneyland with the family was our every year or two trip. No planes, no foreign languages, no solo missions. Even when I did begin traveling further, it was often with others, and within the language confines where I could always find my way. 

But solo traveling? To a place where the words are different, as is the currency? Not to mention, well, everything else? To step out of the bubble we call our everyday lives left me in a place where there really was no turning back. I was here, with a return flight not scheduled for weeks. And learning that I needed a transition period in the first day or two, to openly accept that experience is huge. But being by myself meant I had to talk to others. I had to figure out a way. Whether they spoke English, or butcher their local dialect decent enough for some direction, you just make it work. 

Increasingly, that seems to be what the day to day is becoming in this world of ours. No matter where I am, you just make it work. Ideas & preconceived notions can be great, as long as the attachment to those results aren’t greater than your understanding of plans changing, and being willing to adapt. I’ve occasionally thought that I’ve known what I wanted in life. Maybe a goal here, a daydream there. But, for the most part, the journey I’ve had has been full of surprises. Some welcomed, and at times, some not so much. Regardless, where I find myself today is in a flow of moving it along. Fulfilling my spirit in the day to day, taking my chances and listening to the things that my soul asks of me. I believe this is what makes me a creative being.

I’ve spent nearly 20 years in the kitchen. And, I’ll most likely spend many more, or not. Who knows? What I do know, is that every time I’ve based a life decision regarding my career, a project, whatever, on the financial aspect, or the idea/illusion of safety or comfort, that thing inside me becomes dull. My yearning for “it” silences, and in turn, so does my inspiration & motivation. I’m best at my job when it’s a challenge. My response to given situations that require creativity, solutions, for me to be me? That’s when I awaken. So much so, that I’ve found myself, at times, making less than I did the day before, twice as happy simply due to what’s being asked of me. Not by a boss, per se, but by the Universe. Heck, there’s even time that I spend “working” without even a dollar coming my way. Yet, I sleep just as well, if not better. What gives?

An old friend recently shared something with me that may have seemed pretty obvious, if I had been paying attention and not distracted by shiny objects. He talked about one of the most, if not the most, form of currency: time. This sent me in a spiral. Not necessarily a rabbit hole downwards, but more so in a seeking of what this acknowledgement could mean in possibly improving my experience. 

Time. This thing that often we don’t feel we have enough of, or sometimes are misled to believe we have enough to spare. Something that allows us the freedom to follow our dreams, or a dread that keeps us in a fear that we should simply keep our heads down and continue pushing forward, no matter the cost. Yet, an occasional regret having not started something earlier, or wishing there was a pause button to buy us just one more hour in a day… It all re-enforces the fact that time is something that cannot be replaced.

In knowing this, I am not oblivious to bills. The expense of living, the shiny objects, the next new toy, I’m not resistant to any of it. I still have to search for that balance that will allow me the freedom from life’s unnecessary stresses, while not paying for it with my inner happiness & joy. I get it, things have to happen in this world. Many jobs & career paths are those of necessity. Without them, stores wouldn’t be open, hospitals couldn’t tend to those in need, and who would be there to extinguish the flames if firefighters weren’t around. For these people I am grateful. But these aren’t the people I am addressing & empathizing with. I’m talking more so to those people that are almost paralyzed if they feel limitations in their ability to create. 

I’ve even wondered if my decisions & choices could be deemed “selfish”. Having opted for one road vs. another based on what would fulfill me the most. I’ve tail spun to the point where I’ve said “yes” to things when my heart meant “no”. And to that, rather than feeling selfless, I wasn’t whole, I wasn’t present. That isn’t fair to myself, nor anyone around me. If I steer away from my gut, overthink how I may be perceived, or flat out, for lack of a lighter way of saying it, gave a shit of what everyone thought? I’d be alone. Frozen outside of what calls me. I wouldn’t have a chance to give this world the only “me” that it has. If I don’t make the time to have my experiences, then in turn share those stories, embrace my perspectives, make my food, create the photographs the way that I see them, and tell my story, then who will? I have found the value in who I am, and I know what the currency of time means to me. It is not something I plan, or even attempt to stock up on in any sort of way. Although, my mindfulness around in which the way it is spent has come to the forefront.

At the end of the day, I notice a few things to remain true. If I have done the things that keep me whole, made the effort to be the best version of me I can be, not only am I fulfilled, but so are the ones closest to me. If I stop talking about the work, and do the work (even if its just a small chunk to make progress), I feel I have placed value on my time. For someone like me, which you either may be similar to, or at very least are entertained by the way someone can just keep trudging along, my interaction with this world is a constant two way street. I don’t want more from the exterior than I’m willing to give. I’ve simply come to terms that the one & only way I can make any sort of impact on this one chance I have, is to find the outlets that allow my inner self to shine the brightest way possible. The affects & results of these efforts are beyond my control. So, I’ll just focus on my work. Left foot, right foot… Oh, it all sounds so simple.

R