Blurred Out.

If something is worth saying, it should be worth hearing. That’s the filter I ought to use.

I am not good at marketing myself or even presenting myself on social media. I constantly have to remind my ego that what I say and do isn’t for anyone else’s benefit. And I still forget that sometimes.

It doesn’t help that I have a high opinion of who I am coupled with a desire to never make people feel inferior or incapable. But I definitely know that I can be an asshole. After all, people can just be so stupid.

But that is a product of the society they have been born into, stories I can never know, and a variety of psychological factors produced by genetics, nurture, and scientists don’t even know what else.

The belief that I am completely unique resides alongside the knowledge that I am no different from anyone else. It is hard to define the gap between faith and reality. And often I can find my mind blurring the two.

“Brag girl! Brag all you want. You are amazing! You are living.

“Yeah and if they are annoyed with you, tell ’em they can go suck a fat one.”

I am also trying to find the border between bravado and confidence.

But borders are myths. Creations designed to keep us functioning on scales larger than we usually take time to fathom. (This is true if we subscribe to the Yuval Noah Harari method of thinking. He is the author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. An intensely beneficial subscription when held in careful balance with the games we play to survive the present.)

It all comes back to I’m just winging it. And so are you. You have no idea what you’re really doing.

It’s okay though. You’re not alone.

You can’t be. There are 7 billion people.

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Rock Up

“Abiel!!! Welcome home!”

A few months back I fretted about how I was going to make my way up the North Island. I was fraught with self-made pressure to see things I hadn’t seen. Try not to spend money better saved for next destinations, but still get yourself to those places you ought to check off your list.

I’m so damn thankful I stopped letting my mind spout that BS.

I bought a plane ticket from Queenstown to Wellington. I listed the 3 places I wanted to go because they held people I wanted to say goodbye to. I have hitchhiked and bused my way north, reflecting on how much has changed since I last did this.

I did it. I f*cking did it. I am 10 days short of a solid year away from home and 3.5 months shy of seeing that home again.

And yet, as I rocked up to Howard’s Mountain Lodge, my first workplace, and poked my head into reception, I grinned widely. Man. I made this my home.

“Abiel! You’re back! We have a bed for you upstairs or wherever you like. You know how it works. It’s so good to see you. You’re home now.”

Yeah. I am. I woke up to reggae pounding through the room. I baked cookies and wandered streets I loved so well. I watched snow drenched mountains show off their majesty. I knocked on doors hoping for hellos.

Hugs enveloped me. “You’ve changed Little Blue. You don’t talk down to your hands anymore. You are so confident.”

I guess I just know it will work out now. I actually know it.

I baked one more batch of cookies, watched Romeo + Juliet, curled around reflections of who I was before. “I reckon I’ll hitch up to Taupo for a night.” My manager called the sister hostel. “They’ll give you a bed free of charge.”

If you find a new way to say “thank you so so much” please let me know. I think I’ve exhausted my quota.

I’m the experienced one now. I remember watching the people who had been here for almost a year or more. The understanding they had that you can manage anything. I get to reassure other young women that they can hitchhike. I can give them advice on where to go. I can sit in a corner of the common area and feel completely comfortable with all I have done and seen. I can go to hot pools alone and watch the girls who are there be surprised that I’m doing this without anyone. I’ve done it. With all the work and self doubt that came first.

“Aw mean! When did you get in?”

“The guys who picked me up outside Taupo just dropped me off here. They said they didn’t trust Rotorua to leave me anywhere else.”

“Come in! You know where your room is. You picked the perfect time to rock up.”

And she hugged me, fed me, talked to me, welcomed me.

I will make my home as hospitable as you have made yours. I will model my generosity off of yours. I will always remember the home you gave me. I will always be thankful that instead of pushing my way through new places, I cultivated the relationships who shaped me as I worried my way through the beginning of 18.

“Love ya, girl!”

Well, Have a Good Life

A Swede, Nederlander, Frenchman, Australian, and American walk into a bar to solve the world’s problems…

Whoever can come up with a punchline wins a high five sent from New Zealand.

Living at a hostel presents a lot of interesting challenges. It is basically one giant sociology experiment.

To be a backpacker means you are alone. You may be constantly surrounded by people. You may be in the middle of nowhere and completely without human contact.

Guess which one often feels the loneliest?

To be a backpacker means you are being shoved in and out of friendships that may span two hours total. Time becomes both everything and nothing in your relationships. You have listened to yourself say where you are from, where you are heading, how long you have been here, what you are doing, and why you’re here over and over. You say goodbye to people by saying “have a nice life,” often certain you will never speak to them again. You are constantly surrounded by the interesting so many degenerate into finding nothing interesting. Life becomes “life” again. Even as they are in amazing places, I have met individuals who somehow manage to sound as though they are in a terribly boring situation.

How you see the world is everything.

So how do you find the people who sound like the start of a bad joke when you go out to eat? How do you find the people to kiss under the stars and talk deep without drink? How do you find the ones who you walk into a conversation with them and think “I am going to make sure our friendship lasts longer than a moment”?

I’m not entirely sure.

But I’m determined to keep making it happen.

This post is dedicated to Stuart, George, Sonja, Viktor, and Pierre. I wish you all the homemade cookies you can find.

Yellow Flower Frames

While gazing out the window on our drive to and from town today, I searched for a way to express just how beautiful the sight before me was. One sentence that came to mind was “I want to wrap my soul around it and give it a bear hug.” I wistfully pondered finding a way to integrate this vista, these mountains, that sky into my being.

My train of thought drifted into wondering why we desire to own what we love. Why do I scramble for a reason why this belongs to me. Why do I crave the right to a private piece of a world that was never meant to be mine? I was meant to be a part of it, stride across the future creating my path, but never lay claim to something that has been here so much longer than me.

I notice myself grasping for justifications of my love for people, locations, hobbies, even fandoms. As if proclaiming my devotion will somehow make it my own.

It doesn’t.

I could understand the desert and its powerful silence through and through and it would not be my own anymore than my neighbor’s home is mine. I could write my mountain devotion in verse after verse and my words would not give me right to its slopes and wisdom. I can mention that one of my closest friends has been a part of my world since I was 13 and our lives will continue to collide for years to come, but that does not give me claim to their life and soul. No significant other will belong to me. No friend will belong to me. No part of this world will belong to me. I simply am here to celebrate or enhance or help or be subject to it.

And if all this is true,

Than I do not belong to the world.

I am my own.

And I will not sell pieces of my being just so that I can say I have purchased a part of someone or something else’s.

(All of the photos are unedited.)

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Thermal pools are a world all their own

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I have people who get as excited as I do about stopping to take pictures of the lookout!
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Honeybee-autiful…eyyyy

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Mt. Tongariro
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Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe, (Mt. Doom)
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Mt. Ruapehu
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Mt. Tongariro

“Just at the Start of Six”

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My day was highlighted by three random bits today and although I always have more to say, the small things often make the biggest difference.

I woke up to a text from a friend talking about the insecurities of being in relationship. “So many relationships are dictated by the insecurities of the people involved. How they interact with each other, how they interact with other people. So much so that things like saying ‘I love you’ are said more to reaffirm the other party and themselves rather than because that’s what they want to say…I was thinking about this trait and I guess I realized the ideal place for a relationship would be to reach a place where those insecurities are no longer present…Anyway…all I really wanted to say, free of any feelings that I have to say it, was I love you.”

I love you.

Not many believe me when I say it, but to have those that do means I am able to start my day with messages such as this. Never pass up the chance to say what you want to a human you love.

On an equally important and slightly less deep note, I have found the place where lambs reside. They are freaking adorable…provided they are on that side of the fence and do not belong to me.

I made two friends at the park today. It’s been a while since I heard the phrase “Do you want to be my friend?” I remember saying it as a little girl, it was the cornerstone of my playground adventures. And just as I remember, it let me leave with a smile.

I make a very good prisoner apparently while playing Cops and Robbers and The Floor is Lava has been modified so I’m a lava monster when I fall in, but I’m healed once I’m not in the lava. I see no downside. The day was made better when I was able to walk away with this lovely bit of wisdom:

“Don’t forget your toilet paper, Alligator!”

Truly words to live by. Trust us.

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Perhaps I will at some point be better able to capture the majesty of this place, but for now this will have to do.
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It’s adorable! (it’s the fence that makes it so. I promise.)
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Beautiful moments in quiet spaces

 

North Tomorrow

It’s been a bit since my last post. The thing about irregularity is that your world keeps moving. My thoughts continue at their previous pace and I have so very many things I can say, as usual.

I suppose the best thing to do in such a place is to tell you the bits that will dramatically affect future events.

A bit less than a week ago, I applied for a job at a lodge in Tongariro National Park. It’s the national park where the mountain used for Mt. Doom in Lord of the Rings is located. I found the job searching through one of the New Zealand backpacker job sites. To my delight, I was selected and asked to come as soon as possible.

I catch a bus headed north tomorrow.

I spent the past couple days saying goodbye to some of the places I love. Or perhaps it was more of a “see you soon.” For the most part that meant the library and the Quaker Meeting. I’ll be back. After all, when I decide somewhere is home, I don’t ever leave it completely.

My bounding excitement for this next part of my journey has been showing through in my many good days this week. I will be at the lodge for a minimum of three months, working as receptionist, cleaner, and whatever else I can make myself useful doing. And I’ll be near a mountain!

Wellington is one of my favorite places in the world. (A lot of Wellingtonians seem a bit confused as to why.) I have been able to feel safe in a windy, unpredictable, little city snuggled between hills and withdrawn into a bay. I have been able to rest as I sort my thoughts into the many possibilities of my future.

But more importantly, it has given me a fascinating place to simply be in my present moment.

I have rested a while. Time to continue on.

Passing Eternities

“Each time you love

love as deeply

as if it were

forever

only nothing is

eternal.”*

Young people are often told that we go scurrying to each other’s arms in search of physical affection and from a lack of self confidence. It is assumed that we cannot establish deep relationships. I have been told on multiple occasions that relationships are only worth the end result. Basically, if I cannot see myself with this person for a very long time, than why date them at all?

And to some extent all of these things are true…for some.

What if I said I go into relationships expecting them to end? I’ve gotten negative reactions to that statement. Many seem to think that it means the quality of the relationship will be poor. Is it because people automatically think that it will have less commitment?

What if commitment didn’t mean undying loyalty until the end of life, but mutual understanding and support until there was an decision to find a more healthy way of living? What if the pain that resulted was not something to be afraid of, but something to learn from?

I have NO intention of belonging to someone.

I suppose it could be said that I am missing the point of relationship by asking for something that I refuse to consider permanent.

But since when has there been a point?

I am seeking connection with people and through connection, be it friend, romantic, or familial, you grow and understand. When you make a friend, you do not walk into your interactions thinking This friendship is only as good as the length of time I have it for and that length should be forever. You realize that it will shift based on your mutual needs.

I desperately need relationships of many types in my world.

But in no way do I need them to feel whole. My being will never be defined by another soul, no matter how we choose to work together, but I will love them with all I am able to give for the health of all involved.

 

Clearly the only thing I am searching for is someone to hold me. Can’t you tell?

 

*A stanza from Audre Lorde’s poem “For Each of You.”

Justifying Why

“You don’t have to justify anything, Abiel.”

That is probably only the second time I have had someone stare me in the eyes and say those words with that much force.

I justify everything, expecting that the standard I hold myself to is the standard that others expect of me. And inevitably when I don’t meet my ridiculously high standard I start justifying to everyone else why I am the way I am or what happened or whatnot.

Below are three statements I have been afraid to make public to certain circles of my world for fear of having to justify. I’m not going to justify them.

I believe in God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, but also many aspects of other belief systems. I do not call myself Christian.

The LGBTQI+ community is one of the strongest I know and I admire the risk it takes to be who they are in the face of blatant human rights denial.

I’m not going to get married.

I love you all!

i want to rush that.

One day I’ll look back on this and smile because I will know that things are better now and I had no idea what was coming. I thought this to myself as I quickly made my way into a library bathroom stall, praying the place would stay empty for a while.

Then, I sat down on the (surely disgusting) bathroom floor.

And sobbed.

My already stuffed nose and sore throat were simply exacerbated by this rather inconvenient endeavor. I could feel the salt collecting around the corners of my eyes, stiffening eyelashes as I struggled to explain to my mom why I felt so sad.

It wasn’t because I was missing home. I searched through my mess of feelings trying to find the beginning of the knot. Is it wishing to be in California? Definitely not. Is it feeling completely alone? Not even that. Is it I’m afraid? Nope.

I felt as though I was trying to untangle a kindergartner’s yarn project; I was dealing with something that had no intention of ever being undone in that way.

Finally I found it.

I just want to belong. I know I am home in beautiful Aotearoa, just as I am home in California, but I want to belong. I want my community of people who shift through conversations with me and are seeking to live. I want to feel as though I have a purpose for being here. To have something I can pursue in the form of a job or a class or a workshop or skill. I’ve spent a good chunk of the past two weeks setting goals and intentions for myself. I’m creating the lifestyle that I want. I know I am.

But as I stumbled into the women’s toilet, I felt the weight of small difficulties, large transitions, and no consistent friends outside of my wonderful hosts, (who really are probably the best possible people I could be with right now). I simply cried, knowing full well that it would be better soon, and also ready to bite the head off of anyone who tried to tell me so.

And in my very hard moments through the day, I had people I loved there to talk me through it. This is one grand adventure.

But f*ck today was hard.

I went to the National Library though and the Central Library. I stood on a fuzzy map of New Zealand. I read poetry and bought myself hot chocolate. I looked at bus passes and considered where I might go next.

I let myself be.

After all, it’s a very big change and we wouldn’t want to rush that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well we would, but it’s probably just a better idea that we find a quiet place to cry and people who say “I love you.”

It’s Not the Danger

  • “It is not the danger, dirt, and misery – it is the ghastly waiting to be killed that wears us all to shreds.” – Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick
  • “I shall become a rigorous penman with my left hand. I shall be able to accomplish all sorts of things.” – Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott after having his right arm amputated from a wound
  • “A man just above my dugout was practically beheaded. War is a devilishly silly thing.” – Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick

We all know of war. Its hand has raped our history from the ground up and its smile has brought Death’s trade to many an unnecessary boom. But I think we forget that war is rarely comprised of grand D-Day like triumphs and losses. War is the battles we never knew and the ended lives we forgot to count.

Te Papa Museum called forth a particular conflict that I somehow doubt is on the radar of most Europeans and Americans. The Gallipoli Campaign in World War I was one of the most significant battles in New Zealand history, taking place over the course of eight months on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey. Australians and New Zealanders held a small ridge on Turkish territory, firing at the opposing trenches mere meters away.

‘Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War’ is another of Te Papa Museum’s partnerships with Weta Workshop, (they worked on Lord of the Rings), to tell the stories of individuals and educate us on their context. This exhibition was not about the politics of, the current thoughts on, or the implications of this campaign. It was designed to give you permission to delve as deep as you wanted into the lives of these men living through hell.

I only made it halfway through the exhibit.

I pored over each piece of information provided, watching short films, reading quotes and chronicles of men’s lives. I listened to the movements of the infantry and pulled open maps of the battlefield. I gazed wide-eyed at the photographs of men scraping existences from steep hills and dirt terraces. And still I kept finding more and more of the exhibit to understand.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment where I couldn’t go further, but I know it was there. I felt myself grow heavy from holding the experiences of these soldiers in my heart. My voice was straining from the pain of deep longing to tell their stories. My empathic little soul was crying at me to walk away.

I was admittedly a bit confused. I have read book after book on PTSD, the Vietnam War, and soldiers’ experience in general. I always feel the stories deeply, but never to the point that my whole being is practically brought to its knees.

This is where I gush on the beauty of the exhibit itself. Every part of you is engaged in it. You are listening to sounds and music highlighting each room. You are seeing and reading and touching and observing and being sucked into every possible reproduction of a story that happened over a hundred years ago. You are called to see in a personal way something that is very important to New Zealand history.

And it works.

Thank you, Te Papa Museum, Weta Workshop, and all of the other organizations and individuals who poured their being into telling these stories. You are touching souls and educating us well.

(All of the photos are my own. These sculptures are larger than life and were some of the most incredible pieces of art I have ever seen. Wellington is lucky to have Weta so close and willing to share its talents with its home.)

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To the soldiers of the past and present: I hope your stories are heard. We are listening.