Galway Girl

I have about a week and a half before I fly home and naturally, I’ve been thinking about what’s going to happen next. How to navigate the normality of a job and a place to live, not having to repack my clothes every few days, having a closet. I don’t want life as I currently know it to end. What does it look like to come home and continue?

Galway Girl by Ed Sheeran has been playing on repeat. It’s essentially this song about how he has this perfect night with a girl from Galway who plays the fiddle in an Irish band. The song reminds me of two things. First it reminds me of that night in Dublin, surrounded by music and happiness; and second it reminds me of how much I used to want to play the fiddle. I never started to learn to play because I didn’t like the idea of practice, yet I always liked listening to violin music.

When I left two months ago, I fully expected to be challenged beyond what I thought possible. The knowledge that I would have to deal with my insecurities was planted firmly in my head. There’s no question for me if that’s happened, it has. The challenge for me now is to not let my life get stagnant again by returning to a life similar to how I lived before I left. The trick, maybe, is to find new things to learn. Not new lessons per say, but actual skills like playing the violin or Krav Maga (both things I want to learn).

Simply staying in one spot for a while doesn’t mean life has to stop moving.

Anne Frank

The past few days have been spent in quiet reflection, of wondering what life will be like when I return home. There is a cafe right next to my hostel and I’ve spent the majority of my mornings over a latte and The Diary of Anne Frank. I’ve always had an odd fascination with the Holocaust. Not because I enjoy the suffering of others but because I wish to understand how such a horrible event could happen. Yesterday, after I finished the book, I went to the house where Anne and seven other people hid for the better part of two years. I was moved to tears. I came away wondering what I can do in my own life to make sure something that horrid will never happen again.

There are a few things that Anne wrote that I find quite powerful. The first is “Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.” I often think that to be great means to have wealth and power, that to be an influencer I have to be heard by hundreds or millions of people. In reality, I’m already someone with a voice and influence. We all start out on the same page, we are all good people. What I do with that is up to me. Which brings up the second quote. “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” Humans have been given this great gift, choice. We can choose how to live and we don’t have to base our choice on what other’s think. We often do base certain choices on others but not always. Ultimately, how we live is our choice and we have to take hold of the seriousness of that and how our choices can affect the world. Final quote is, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” This reminds me that I don’t have to sit around waiting for things to happen in order to make a difference. Treating others with love and kindness is a great way to start.

I find that what I can do to improve this world is actually quite simple. Assume everyone is good and worthy, choose to do good in the world and do it. It doesn’t matter where I am in life, what matters is making the choice to care about others and to show kindness and compassion. With that, maybe the world will become a better place.

Firenze

Wandering through Rome, I was overwhelmed. Everywhere I looked there was another historical site. “Dang. This place is history on steroids.” Little did I know that at that same moment, Florence whispered, “You know nothing.”

Rome is amazing. The Colosseum, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, The Roman Forum, the food. Gelato. And just as overwhelming the second time around.

Stepping off the train in Florence, I’m amazed. It’s quiet. There aren’t 10 million people walking the same way I am. The old and new don’t clash. There’s uniformity, consistency. The city flows with quiet confidence, the perfect balance, as if the city hasn’t changed much since it began.

Someone at the table next to me at dinner tries to order sangria. The waiter responds with a cheeky “We don’t have that. This is Florence.” I grin. This city has no need to change for anyone, unnecessarily. It knows it’s worth, what it brings to the table. It’s a city that doesn’t try and be anything other than itself. It’s taken a changing world and progressed gracefully, refinishing a foundation already made strong.

Can I say the same about myself? Am I completely confident in where I’ve been and where I’m going? Do I take my insecurities and shortcomings and learn from them, grow. Or do I ignore them, shoved in a corner, hoping they’ll leave forever. It’s not a matter of whether or not change happens, it does. The question is how I take past, present and future and use it to be more confident and fluid as a person.

Pain Into Promise

There’s something quite soothing about Athens. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe I’m actually settling into myself post Starbucks. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe the air here breathes new life into everyone who needs it. Whatever it is, I’ll take it, open hearted.

The variations of streets, from wide, straight and noisy to narrow, windy and quiet. I’m not sure if I could ever actually get lost, with each new corner comes whispers of beauty, new secrets for me to find. Finding new ways only the stray cats care to roam. Occasionally someone tires to speak to me but I move on, the wind gently guiding me to new, unknown destinations. There is a simplicity in the complexity. The buildings whispered that there has been so much that has come before. So many struggles and hardships, beauty and happiness. The promise of taking whatever has come before and soothing it into acceptance and strength. The knowledge that with great power comes great responsibility. The ability to take pain and turn it into promise.

Fear; an Intro

I type in “Fear Quotes” on Pinterest and one of the first quotes that pops up goes a little something like this; “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” I smile knowingly, glance up briefly from my iPad and shake my head.

The edge of fear is standing on a cliff, miles in the air and the knot in my stomach at the knowledge that I have to jump off. The knot rises in my troat as I get closer to the edge. No matter how many times I tell myself that the path at the bottom of the cliff will be far better than anything I’ve just experienced doesn’t erase the comfort I feel with two feet on the ground. I think I can handle the heartache and pain I’ll go through if I stay because I know what to expect. Yes, heartache and pain will be there at the bottom but they, I, will be different. As long as I jump.

Just over two months. The amount of time I’ll be jumping. There have been moments over the past year and a half where I thought I wouldn’t be able to make the leap. ┬áBut here I am, less than a week out and I’m preparing to make the jump. This trip is going to be life changing. I can’t expect it not to be.

Some of you are here because you’re family and you’re worried about me. Some of you because you want to live vicariously through me. And others because I know how to use a good hashtag. For those, and other reasons, you are here and here is where I want you. This is where I’ll record my journey in one of the best ways I know how, writing. And to start off, let me introduce myself.

My name is Jenna, I’m getting lost somewhere in my 20’s and no matter where I happen to be living at the time, I will always be from Maine. The first trip I took to Europe was in high school. I went to prep school and was in a music group (English Hand Bells for those of you curious enough to google it). Every two years our director did tours and my sophomore year, we went to Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to go back. During college, I took a year off and volunteered at a school in Denmark for 10 months. I thought, somewhere in the middle of those months, that my wanderlust would be (at least semi) cured when I got home. I was, happily, wrong. The past few years, I’ve graduated from college, moved across the country, been challenged in so many ways, and still I know there is something missing. I watch the world around me and talk to people I’ve met and I realize that I have this great opportunity to travel. Not only am I young and single, I don’t own anything, I live with family and I work in food service. Seeing the way our world is, I have come to the belief that so many of the problems we’ve created could be resolved by simply doing our utmost to understand others by taking a moment to lay down our egos and preconceptions, walk in their shoes and listen to their stories.

I’ve struggled a lot the past few months with a lot of fear and perceiptions of my own of what my life needed to look like, whether it had to do with my job, how much I made, or my propensity torwards singleness. Perceptions that have held me back from following my dreams of travel and I’ve finally come to a place where I’ve overcome fear and am ready to step off the cliff. Fear can only control what I allow it to control and I’m done letting it control me.

So welcome, whoever you are, for whatever reason you are here. It’s going to be a great journey.