Inshallah

Dear Brightstar,

It has been three years since I moved abroad. Though my letters havn’t been consistent the questions and aches I’ve felt over the past three years have been the same.

I moved to Geneva and then I left. I lived in Kampala and with work and an open heart I grew to love that change. Then I moved to Amman where I am living now.

The expat life has been exciting but it’s broken my heart a few two many times. I’ve fallen in love with people and built up families everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve transformed myself from a continental museum wandered to a streetwise motorbiker. Open and then hardened before transforming yet again, I have been formed by each experience

But the questions have not been answered. I only feel more jaded then I was at 24 moving abroad for the first time. I suppose through trials and adventures I’ve proven Rilke’s view that you tend to carry questions with you. Life doesn’t resolve itself no matter how many continents you live on.

I plan to keep in touch more if only to document my inward journey as I keep moving.

Jaded, confused, and heart sore.  Getting a bit sick of the expat lifestyle. But addicted to the promise of learning one more culture, one more city, one more new creation of self. Watch as I see whether this is the right city for me or just one more stop.

Always with love,

Keatsway

 

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A Letter to my 25 year Old Self

Dear Brightstar,

Over coffee and some journal readings this morning, I realized that it’s only a few shorts months before my next birthday. I will be turning 26 in about 3 months.

Normally, I don’t really care about the years involved with birthdays—but something about people wishing me a happy quarter of a century this last time round resonated with me. I felt the age keenly with my 25th birthday.

I also spent my 25th birthday wishing I wasn’t alone.Honestly, it was my own choices that led me to be alone but I had this acute sense of being cheated. By life and by myself. I felt I would have more at 25.

The past year has passed more quickly then I imagine. I went from being completely alone on my 25th birthday to by spring I was at the happiest point in my life I could ever remember being. Then I threw caution to the wind and followed my dream to a completely new place, stripped bare of everything I had built the past few months.

Now that I am 3 months away from my next birthday, I feel I have achieved more this year then any beforehand. Yet, I am back to being alone.

This begs the question. While my 25th year has been a success, things are still difficult. What life lessons can I impart form this past year?

Looking forward to a little more wisdom this coming year,

Keatsway

 

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Keeping Your Nerve Up

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Dear Brightstar,

As you well know I have just moved again. I’m living in an entirely new city, continent, and hemisphere. Kampala is by all standards a very different city then Geneva.

Yesterday I felt alive with the possibilities of living here. Tonight I feel as though I am heartbroken and alone.

My nerves are raw. I am exhausted. It’s an ever shifting equilibrium. I get both thrills from the thought of living in this new city and I despair I will never fill the ache of friends I miss.

There are definitive benefits to living abroad.

“Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time.” ~ Hannah Arendt

But this is balanced with heartache.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Unknown

In the meantime, you need to absorb new routines and overwhelming changes while mourning the life you choose to leave elsewhere. Especially, the people you choose to leave behind.

I know I choose this change just as I keep choosing a lifestyle of leaving places and people. But some nights its difficult to sleep with this choice.

But there seems to be nothing to it but to keep going.

The skills I will need to cultivate in order to live a life ‘persistently abroad‘—-by which I mean I keep choosing to move abroad despite my distress at starting over— will need to be: tenacity, patience with myself, courage, and good humor that feeds into a adventurous spirit.

I am here now and I will build a life in Kampala. It will never be the life I lead at home, or that I had in Geneva, but it will certainly be an adventure. With some patience and persistence, I think I can flourish here despite missing what I’ve built before.

All the best from my new home to be,

Keatsway

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Tumeric Tea – A High Five Post

In this post, our newest collaborator Percival shares her HIGH-5 – the 5  things she loves best. 

Messy Hair:Image

In high school I made some bad choices: I count my habit of waking up at 5 AM to flat iron my already strait hair among the worst of them. What makes it so embarrassing is that, with all the effort I put into making my hair look neat and lifeless day in day out, I didn’t even like my hair all that much. On the day my flatiron finally broke from overuse I decided to sleep an extra 30 minutes and accept my messy hair. Since then, my life has improved dramatically. It could be that my flatiron braking coincided with my graduating high school, or that messy/unmanaged hair gives me something in common with Alison Mossheart, or maybe it’s only a matter of 30 extra minutes of sleep. No matter what the actual cause, I believe messy hair to be an agent of good.

Turmeric Tea:

I fell in love with turmeric my first year of art school when I learned how to use it to dye natural fibers a supremely beautiful, vibrant yellow. Besides that, it’s really good for you! This colorful, aromatic spice helps boost your immune system and make sore muscles feel better. Along with adding a little extra to curries, I’ve been enjoying turmeric in tea form, like this: mix ¾ tsp. of honey with ¼ tsp. turmeric, add a pinch of cayenne pepper, a slice of lemon, some hot water and… that’s it! Delicious turmeric tea! I recommend drinking it out of a clear glass for aesthetics.

Tissue Paper:

Color gives me energy and happiness (observe, my love of turmeric), but whenever I try to draw with color I feel incapacitated. For this reason I tend to stick with my trusty graphite pencil set or a ballpoint pen whenever I work on a drawing project. Recently though, I’ve found a way to get around my neurosis and apply color to my drawings: tissue paper. How it works is a make a pattern with the tools I feel comfortable and familiar with: just a regular pencil or pen. Then I add some colorful tissue paper to my composition with a glue stick. That’s it, this is what it looks like:

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It’s a good time, people.

Blank Paper Notebooks:

Just because notebooks without lines are so much less confining than notebooks with lines: you can sketch, make itemized lists, collage: whatever you do with your blank notebook, you can do it without having to think about lines. Line-free notebooks are just better for creativity, okay? Trust me.

Taking a cue from Gorge Perec and paying close attention to your surroundings:Image

Step one—look at An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris. The title is long, but it makes for fairly quick and charming read. For Perec, the date is October 18, 1974. The time: 10:30 am, the place: Tabac Saint-Sulpice. He then goes on to describe everything he looks at; he mentions a lot of bus routes. Step two—go somewhere. Anywhere is fine as long as you remember to take a pen and a nice line-free notebook with you. Find a comfortable place to sit and cast yourself in the same role as Perec. Be an observer, write down what colors people are wearing, describe how they move, whatever catches your eye—the most important part of the exercise is to not edit yourself too much and have fun, because it can be really fun to step back and enjoy what the world, your world, looks like (even if only for a few minutes).

How To Travel: Literary City Guides

Dear Brightstar,

The best way to get the pulse of a city is to find a way to link yourself to its history, its stories, and its coffee. When I travel, I relish the chance to visit the neighborhoods where writers or iconic figures lived their lives. I also like to experience the best local haunts.

Eat This Poem blog has brought together writers  from all over the world to share their best recommendations for coffee,  food, and books in the cities they love.

Literary City Guides

 

Look up a guide today for your next travels or to rediscover a city you already know.

Happy trails,

Keatsway

I Wanted to Live Deep

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Dear Brightstar,

Those who know me know I tend to collect quotes, print them out and tape them to my walls. This is why my walls are covered with post-it notes and sticky tack residue.  I’ve always felt that a well written sequence of words can be the best guidance for life.  But lately, I look at my wall of quotes and wonder at the advice I’ve been following for years. It seems I’ve reached an age where I can’t rely on the same optimistic promises.

In my journal, I’ve  scrawled a Henry David Thoreau quote. One that seemed to epitomize everything I feel in my daily life. The tension between plodding through my work day and the liberation of day dreaming on Sundays about my future.

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life . . .    – Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods  

This quote seemed like such a short yet accurate description of a very big feeling. Concise enough to be repeatable, a mantra.   I have sprawled this quote across my bedroom walls, in my journal and on my computer desktop. But am I actually succeeding in living deeply?

What does this quote mean to me? It’s served as a catch-all sentiment that I can cram many concepts. Broadly, I want to develop as a individual and learn a great deal over my life. At the same time, I don’t want to be so occupied with my development that I miss out on life itself.  I want to be deeply engaged, always striving, and taking risks but all without losing sight of enjoying the day to day.  Sounds like the secret to life doesn’t it?

This means a long list of work for me now. To develop professionally, to find a job I enjoy, to hone skills. It also means figuring out my mental state and being able to exist as a fully formed individual, to accept myself, and be alright when  alone. I also need to know how to live with others and to be there for people without letting anyone take more from me than I should give. Perhaps most importantly, living deeply would mean being constantly learning, whether about myself or about the world. Challenging, critiquing, and forcing myself to take on difficult lessons.

Examining my life now I find that while I am enjoying myself and averaging a healthy balance of work and living  life I don’t feel I am living deeply. My brain and senses aren’t exploding with new thoughts or experiences. I’m not discovering myself with epiphanies. While I do feel I am settling more into accepting myself and  understanding who I am this is a very gradual process and not one that has reached a critical turning point. Really, I feel like I may be ignoring the most important part of life. Deep learning.

If I am not living deeply am I just wasting my time?

Best wishes my dear Brightstar from someone contemplating taking down some old mantras.

With love,

Keatsway