"Eat delicious things while you can still eat them, go to wonderful places while you still can and not have evenings where you say to yourself; What am I doing here? Why am I here? I am bored witless!" - Norah Ephron
Why am I restless?? This can be an ongoing theme for some of us. I know I can relate. You're sitting there, on your favorite spot on the couch. You have your pick of TV shows and Movies, but today it all seems so irrelevant. Your fridge is stocked with your fave healthy and not so healthy choices. Yet, you're not intrigued. You're trying to jog your mind on what you could be doing right now that would bring you some satisfaction, some fulfillment. You draw a blank. Crickets. At this point, please feel free to start freaking out. "Somethings broken"! "Who broke me"! I can laugh now; but I wasn't laughing then.
It is possible to unconsciously loose yourself, your true identity. However you can always retrace your steps and find out where/how you got lost in the first place. Find out what went missing. The cool part about that process, retracing your steps, is that you will find something new along the way. Take someone like me for example - I am responsible for raising my two girls as a divorced mother. I am also invested in my career in corporate America. To be the best I could be in both roles, my world inadvertently began to revolve around my children and my job. Every decision I made, every choice I made, were with those two roles in mind first and foremost. Now this was not perfection, but it was necessary as far as I could see. My girls passions became mine by association and love. We became best companions and consistent social partners by default. My close friends became the mothers of my daughters friends or my co-workers. It all made sense to exist in their world. Eventually I had to pause and ask myself, "Curious, what is it you like to do again"? With growth comes change, so I know I was not necessarily going to be interested in the same things from my past. But I still wanted to discover my blueprint. I ended up creating my blueprint, ever changing, and having fun along the way.
I started volunteering, in 2008, I believe with Hands On Atlanta as a Project Leader. It was a passionate and fulfilling role that I discovered by accident. So remember my role as a mom? Ok. So, I realized we had volunteer hours we could use at my job. I started looking for an outlet to use them and I was focused on reading to kids - like an after school program. Because that's the stage I was in my girls life - reading to them. I enjoyed it and knew I would enjoy sharing it with other children. However, the areas that needed my help where so far away from my home and work and the hours were not favorable. I knew there was no way I could get off work, pick up the kids from school and still make it in time to volunteer. Eventually I stumbled upon leading projects on Hands On Atlanta Day, which is usually on a Saturday. As in not a work day. This could happen! And the rest was as they say, history. Since being a volunteer project leader was something new, my obvious reaction was fear. But I surprised myself. I kept going and I loved it. I found other weekend or holiday projects to engage in. Eventually my girls were able to join me on a couple of volunteer projects as they got older. I was not expecting either one of them to like it as It was my thing. However, my oldest surprised me by asking when my next project was taking place so she could join me again. So just as I was able to share their passions, we had come full circle and they were now sharing mine with me. Isn't it amazing how wonderful things manifest on their own?
My girls - Volunteering at a Hands On Atlanta project I lead on MLK Day this year
This Gentleman and his daughter were doing some serious multitasking at the volunteer project
Eventually, unscripted and unplanned, I was able to pair my consistent passion for Travel and Exploring with Volunteering - in India.
In 2004 I watched a documentary on HBO called Born into Brothels. It started out with Zana Briski, a documentary photographer, visiting Kolkota, India for the main purpose of photographing prostitutes. She ended up befriending the children of the prostitutes and started teaching them photography. Eventually convincing their parents to place the children in a free boarding school where they can be educated and pursue a vocation of their choice. Some of the children stayed on at the school, others where withdrawn. Long story short I was moved by the lives of the children and the condition they were born into. I wanted to volunteer and do something, anything, to have a positive impact on the children like Zana did. But India though Cheli?...India? What about your children right here with you? I had never left the country to volunteer but I've always been fascinated about India - the culture, the history, the colors, the art, the movies...all of it! But I hesitated. Ten years later I was still Googling "Born into Brothels", wondering what had happened to those children. Where they able to survive their environment? Where they thriving? At the same I was also Googling volunteer societies and one stood out -
Its now 2014 and I was still talking about it, not taking any action. My daughter eventually said, just go. She said, I know you really want to do this so just go. We're on summer break, we'll be fine. Support and Encouragement - always good ingredients for follow thru. The next thing I knew I was applying for a passport, putting down my living expense deposit, and buying a ticket to Delhi, India. I was on my way to volunteer in Jaipur, India. It only took ten years...ha! ha! The experience was more than I expected. Much more. I ended up making great friends with the very young and lively volunteers. They were the main reason I had so many adventures. After our projects each day they wanted to explore Jaipur and would invite me along with them. I chose to teach Math and English at the school for street kids as my volunteer project. I only had 4 male students and they were all very different in their personalities, very brilliant and gracious and kind. They had a lot of questions, especially personal ones. I was not expecting to really do any exploring in Jaipur. Just teach and come back to the group home and shop for some mementos. I ended up visiting various Palaces and Forts and the marketplace as well multiple times. I even got my nose pierced with full confidence. After all I was in a city were almost every woman had a nose piercing. What could possibly go wrong? Nothing. Jaipur is a mixture of old world and new. You can see a camel and car on the street at the same time, both been used as a means of transportation. The heat took some getting used to but it did not take away from my experience. Before I left I offered a suggestion for a shade covering outside at the School. You see, my class was held outside. So the sweating and constant thirst acted as a distraction for my students during class; but we soldiered through it. Much to my amazement, later that year I saw a picture on their Facebook page that showed the students standing under a shade covering at the same spot where I used to teach. That was a happy moment for me. I couldn't stop smiling. I felt my presence, even if it was just for 10 days, had made a difference. So yeah, Travel and Exploring thanks to Volunteering. Three wonderful passions that manifested on their own. Next year my youngest wants to go back to India with me to volunteer. This time we will choose the orphanage. I can't wait to share and observe her experience as well.
Almost ready for class with my volunteer friend at the school for street kids in July 2014. My class space is right behind me.
Same spot three months later Oct 2014 - complete with new canopy for the outdoor teaching and new uniforms on the beautiful children
With one of my brilliant students, Rahul
Jaipur - Old World and New World living
With some of my volunteer friends. Ready to explore Amer Fort
So what new form of creativity am I exploring now? (aside from blogging...) Free Yoga in the Park! So far it's been taking place every Sunday at Old 4th Ward Skatepark Atlanta, GA. It didn't happen this Sunday because of the rain. Sunday past I got to try it out with my daughter who actually likes practicing Yoga and it was an interesting experience. I'm a novice - shaky legs, forgetting to breath - but still, great experience and I'll do it again. We were a very diverse crowd out there on the field - young, old, experienced and novice all mixed in together and having a memorable experience.
So, If you've been feeling restless lately, I'll say just make a decision and moved forward with what you have and what you know. The rest will take care of itself. I know now that it was always up to me to seek out my authentic self and give her a chance to create her life. It's not just enough to create your blueprint, it also requires your investment. You have to nurture it. Water it. With time, love, consistency and fortune. Life is not a party you get invited to, you should already be there.
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