This I Unabashedly Write:
Hemingway once said to never travel with someone you don’t love. And, while I had no idea that this harmonious and fulfilling of a relationship would fall into my lap, I feel like I have unexpectedly followed Hemingway’s advice to a T here in Taiwan. Words cannot express my appreciation for my roommates. Truly. Words are not malleable enough; they don’t bend and stretch to reach all the corners of my love, and therefore cannot fully describe it.
However, if ever there is anything that threatens our accord, it is deciding upon a restaurant for dinner. While this might sound like a trivial manner, our personalities do not allow for any verdict to be reached without considerable thought and time spent on the subject, a dangerous game when we are particularly ravenous.
Usually, when it is just Eric and I at home, I try to pass the decision along to him through various tactics and stratagems that I perceive as sneaky and clever, and he perceives as slight hindrances in forcing me to make the final decision. This pains me greatly, mostly because I genuinely do not care where we eat.
I wouldn’t feel exactly comfortable saying that this indifference is, in fact, indifference. I like almost all food, will eat just about anything, and am happy and satisfied with almost all food options at any given time. I also would shy away from saying that this is due to a passive personality. Although there are definitely less dominant elements to my disposition, I can make decisions when it is necessary that I do so.
But there are people in this world that cannot eat curry rice for every meal for three months straight. I know that those people exist.
So, to accommodate others’ food quirks and preferences, I almost always try to defer to the people around me. This is not to say that my roommates have food quirks. We do have many restaurants that we frequent, including a Japanese place with a bulldog named Sushi, a restaurant that we have taken to calling Double Trouble for its combo meal of entrée and individual hot pot, and a restaurant that we call Grumpy Lady’s even though the female owner has smiled at us on occasion. And I think that, many nights, we both do not have a strong preference of one over the other.
This just means that, when it is time to make a decision, Eric and I spend a lengthy amount of time staring at a piece of paper on the wall in front of his room, an incomplete list of the places we approve of in the general vicinity. And, I always tell him that I don’t care. And he always asks me to pick something quicker. And then we stare in silence again.
We have tried various methods of narrowing down and weeding out, but the struggle is real and it remains.
On the rare occasions that I boldly make the decision for us, I marvel for a moment at this ability, to have a thought in my head and then have that thought materialize itself into creamy soup noodles right in front of me. I, for a brief second, become drunk on the power of choice. Yeh, I got these noodles. Full of fatty acids and butter, no doubt. So what? Maybe I will get a bubble tea afterwards. And drive my scooter just because. Don’t mess with me.
By the time we finish our meal, however, I have come back to reality and remembered the little list of to-do’s in my agenda book, things that I better make it home for. There is always Chinese homework to do, or lesson plans to finish. But, for that shining moment, I could have scootered to the ends of the earth if the whim had struck me.
Needless to say, I am not the most impulsive of individuals, and I often struggle with making decisions. I am given over to meticulous order in many parts of my life. This manifests itself in many ways, but none more comical that the Timepiece Incident.
At the beginning of the Fulbright program, Eric and I established a strange bond almost immediately over the song “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor. I do not have any reason to really like the song. The lyrics are ridiculous but, after hearing it on the radio a few times, it stuck in my head and would raise its ugly head in the most inopportune situations, like during the quiet times in between orientation sessions. Eric would join in, and we would then trade off on the initiation of impromptu karaoke. We drove everyone mad by the end of the first week.
It was then quite curious to me when, after months of randomly breaking out into the mindless, self-congratulatory chorus, Eric told me that I was singing the wrong words. He himself had not realized it until that exact moment, in November, nearly three months too late.
The real lyric is “I walk in like a dime piece,” meaning a 10 out of 10. But I had been singing “I walk in like a timepiece.”
Why did this make sense to me? I have no idea. I have a history of singing wrong lyrics (just ask Jacob Brumley or Seth Church), but I came to the conclusion that punctuality is attractive, sexy even. She showed up to the club on her own time, which was when she wanted to. Not a minute too soon and not a minute late. Unfortunately, my roommate didn’t buy it.
But it is undeniable that bursting into song is oftentimes the extent of spontaneity in my personality. My August-to-August agenda book goes everywhere I do. I have an agenda typed out for when my parents fly to Taiwan. This preference for order thus lends itself to routine:
Routines are cornerstones, structural supports to the stage I am player in.
They are the pillars that drape a canopy sky over my head and the asphalt that wraps the well-worn road into curves under my feet.
They are the backdrops, painting me in different rooms and places, one at four thirty, the next at seven-fifteen.
They are the certain of, the relied upon.
They are the synthetic makings of an outer realm, Splenda-sweet surroundings caked on canvas.
An eye on the clock is not distracted by that which is outside of these parameters, and cares even less to notice a chip or two in the paint.
Toeing the line is an open invitation for falling off the stage’s edge;
and I have a strict schedule to keep,
and only three hours until it is time for sleep,
and I am set in my ways.
But, to my own surprise, I have grown into a level of measured decisiveness that I would identify as improvement. After all, this year was practically spilling over with choice. I made the decision to come to Taiwan, to teach as a Fulbright ETA, to leave my mother and the safety of well-established relationships to forge new ones that must last at least a full year. This decision was met with some scrutiny, given the condition of my mother’s health, and even further obfuscated by the most recent of news. It cannot be said, however, that I ever waivered in my decision to accept the Fulbright grant. I knew that this was where I needed to be.
And as I look forward to 2017, I cannot help but reflect on the things that I have accomplished here. I have applied to graduate schools. And not just any graduate schools: the graduate schools that I want to apply to. I have trained for and completed a 13K, and am now looking forward to a half-marathon in March. I have obtained a scooter license and have my own scooter that I can terrorize other drivers with. And I have taught, and will continue to teach, some of the most adorable and loving children that I could ever hope to encounter.
But the more nuanced element of Measured Decisiveness is the conscious, minute-by-minute choice to live in constant appreciation for the opportunity that I have to significantly impact the lives of those around me.
I am not always good at making this choice. I stick my nose in a book when I could be talking with the people around me. I look at my lists more than I look at some of my children. I sacrifice meaningful interaction in the name of getting things done. I allow productivity to influence my self-worth.
But with every failed attempt at Conscious Living, I am that much closer to my goal. Acknowledging that you have come up short is simply realizing there is no limit to how much further you can go.
I am proud of the decisions that I have made this year, and the ones that I will continue to make along the way. Expect some exciting posts, my friends. I smell change in the air.
And it smells like creamy soup noodles.