No (s)pain, no gain

If you uproot a plant and replant it in new soil, chances are, it will have difficulty surviving, yet alone thriving.

If you do the same to a human, it is likely that the person will have the same problem.

A large-scale example would be the story of how my parents emigrated from Hong Kong and Taiwan to the U.S. with little to no knowledge of the English language to start a new life.

A much smaller scale example is what I’m currently feeling at my study abroad program in Valencia, Spain.

This weekend, I spent a lot of time exploring and reflecting (shout-out to my lost passport) while most of my friends went on trips around Spain or to different countries. I embraced discomfort, didn’t mind getting lost, and enjoyed being alone in my thoughts.

One thing I discovered was how much I admire the slow and colorful way of Spanish living. Restaurants and stores close in the evening for siesta, or short time of rest, and open back up later in the night where everyone goes out drinking or dancing. As one of my friends put it, “Everyone loves to drink, dance, and naps are required? This is the place for me!!”

While exploring, I noticed that people eat very slowly at restaurants. During lunch, everyone is just laying back, looking into each other’s eyes, talking, laughing, or smoking cigarettes. People eat at coffee shops alone and read the newspaper with no smartphone in sight. At first, it would throw me off (the waiters take forever and a day to get the check), but I learned to at least try to appreciate this rather than become impatient with it. With them, there is no hurry, no eagerness to move onto the next activity.

Spaniards live so joyfully. In such a busy and over-stimulating world, sometimes there is nothing more healing than intentionally enjoying the little moments, or just peacefully basking in simplicity and silence. 

Amidst all of the walking (that my sedentary self is not used to), the emotional rollercoasters due to a string of unlucky events, the constant need to sleep (most likely the cause for the emotional rollercoasters and walking), I have come to realize that my attitude towards life needed a change.

I’m always waiting for something to happen. Or when I am doing things and living life, I’m almost always thinking about what’s next. My head is always stuck in the past or in the future. This mindset makes it hard for me to truly enjoy things. I exist but I am not present.

A few weeks ago, I remember wishing the second semester of my junior year would end so I could be on summer break and go to Catalina Island, Seattle, and Spain. When I was on Catalina Island, I couldn’t wait to go to Seattle. When I was in Seattle, I couldn’t wait to go to Spain. Now I’m in Spain, and there are times where I can’t wait to go home. Why can’t I just enjoy what is good, right now?

When we focus our minds toward things that are idealized and faraway, we become too busy to notice the most wonderful and life-changing views that occur along the way. 

The truth is we’re probably never going to get to the “destination” that will change what’s within us. No glorious cathedral, crazy night out, or beach view truly holds the power to reconstruct how we love, talk, live, and interact with one another. The adventures we crave, chase, and anticipate after are actually within us — only if we allow them.        

Waiting for something better to come prevents us from enjoying the things, people, experiences, and people around us.

If we start to notice the little things like how beautiful the walk from the apartment to school is and admire the insightful things that every person brings to the room, the uprooted plant might actually be watered and grow. It is then that we might be able to to truly find happiness in the present understand the beauty in the things that surround us.