Friday, May 28, 2010

Ask anyone who has known me a long time to describe me in one word, I will bet on them saying "intense." It's a label I have been given over and over again. It's one that I never came to accept, until recently.

Intense. Strangers thought it was weird, my boyfriends dumped me because of it, and my friends joked about it - not always in an innocent way. I hated the word. I flinched when I heard the word and my name used in the same sentence. I went on the defense. The fact that I was intense and passionate in a part of the world where most people prefer normal, calm and the comfort of routine was a burden. One that my dear parents and family, my allies, did their best to help carry and nurture.

Now I realize that my intensity has an awesome purpose. I'm intense because I am signing up for a career that is extremely intense. I have an overabundance of energy because I'm going to need it when humanity's flaws and evil tendencies get in the way of good intentions time and time again. Failure is a given in international development and it's going to take a lot of passion to get back out there and try again. If my life turns out the way I have it in my head, I'll be working alonside the military and other federal officials in fairly dangerous places where I'll be riding in armored vehicles and may need a military escort at times. There is a good chance that my career will require bursts of activity and focus followed by rest and return to "normalcy." Intense? Yes. Perfect.

So, as it turns out, my intense personality was the difference between a predictable, average life and one that is full of mystery, excitement, opportunity, fun, ambition and life-changing experiences. A life focused on mortgages, retirement funds, 401ks, the grind for the next 60 years . . . or . . . a bunch of unknowns that whisper of endless possibilities.

If you aren't intense, you can't stand out in the crowd. I don't want to blend in. I don't want an ordinary life. I want an extraordinary one.

"Intense." Why, thank you.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

After seeing a dear friend of mine, Stephanie Kleven, twice in two weeks due to her proximity (she lives in Philly), I realize how important this decision to move to D.C. was for my social needs.

God bless Missouri. I'm glad I was raised close to nature, with humble beginnings, solid values, the slow life, and zero materialism. On the other hand, I am a total skeptic of easy questions and simple answers and ends. For some unknown reason, I have always questioned simple conclusions, the average path and conventional reasoning. Curiousity was the death of my content Midwestern spirit and I set out to search for different answers.

Only in my travels did I collide with like-minded questioners. Free spirits on a search for something they couldn't explain. Not content unless they were in discovery. Pushing limits for the thrill of it and not writing anything off as impossible. Searching for something bigger than themselves. These were the people I needed in my life. These were my kindred spirits.

Now they are close. They live in D.C., Philly, New York, Boston. . . for the moment. Until they, too, head off on the next adventure. Chasing dreams, pursuing ambitions, starting non-profits, disappearing on long bike rides for the fun of it, acting on their (calculated) whims, studying what they are passionate about, plotting wild adventures in savage-like countries, pondering cross-country road trips, and, most importantly, never saying never. Never assuming the answer to life fulfillment is as easy as A, B, and C, but positive it's about living out A through Z. Shoving as much life and as many different types of livelihoods into this one life we are given.

I have amazing friends leading extraordinary lives. They never cease to inspire me. I could not even begin to guess where life will take them. Much to my relief.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

From the doorstep of my apartment, I have an amazing six mile loop. Within four blocks, I pass Iwo Jima, followed quickly by Arlington Cemetary. Ten minutes in, I am crossing the Potomac and coming up the backside of the Lincoln Memorial. This stretch is gorgeous when the setting sun reflects off of the Potomac. Within 15 minutes of having left my apartment, I am running on the National Mall. No matter how many times a week I run it, I never tire of running up and alongside the Washington Monument at sunset and looking across the reflecting pool to the Lincoln and to my right at the Capitol. It is a rush every time. I love the architecture of all the buildings lining the mall and the power they represent.

Just another reason to love where I'm at.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thirty-two Flavors and Then Some

Sometimes I’m annoyed by the fact that I’m still 100 percent single – I haven’t had a significant relationship in nearly four years – but, there are those moments when I am glad my romantic adventures haven’t lasted. Sometimes I am glad they are just that – adventures.

As long as I am labeling them adventures, allow me to just make a brief list of the different kinds I would like to have, starting with a photographer. I want to date a man whose passion is capturing beauty and I plan to be the object of his lenses while we date. For a brief moment, or however long our courtship lasts, I want to live out that quiet little girl fantasy of being a supermodel. For a brief moment in my life, I will look amazing in pictures.

Also on the list is an astronomer, or at least a dilettante in the field. We will sit under the stars on summer nights, me peering through his telescope while he teaches me about the far away world. Philosophical questions about human life will pop up and demand our probing for hours.

At the top of the list is my doctor without borders. My little do-gooder who gives up six figures so that he can travel the world healing the sick in the most forgotten corners on the globe. If I don’t get to marry this guy, I need to at least spend many years traveling the world with him. Maybe adopt a baby or two. In the midst of human crises, I’ll dash to grab his medical handbook and look up the disease he is trying to treat. He’ll discretely smile as I mispronounce “meningococcal” and look at him confused when he asks me to pass the bone mallet. When we aren’t working with the local population, we’ll sit out on the verandas surrounding our cabaƱa, complain about mosquitoes and watch the world pass around us. Maybe we could even land a beach front location in our forgotten part of the world. We won’t have any real estate competition in war-torn countries.

I’ll briefly need to date a lawyer so that he can pick out all of the flaws in my arguments and teach me how to pointedly defend my many opinions. Just trying to outsmart each other will be a fun challenge for a couple of months. Or maybe he will have it in his plans to make it all the way to the White House, in which case it would be better for us to stay together. After all, first ladies do get involved in policy these days. Even if we don’t work out, we'll stay friends and he'll remember that I would make an excellent candidate for Secretary of State.

Yes, I've actually given all of this thought. For the first time in my life, I have everything I want - my own apartment in an exciting city; a scholarship to work on a masters in international development at an excellent graduate school; a foot in the door at the International Rescue Committee; a job that has turned me into a food snob as well as pays the bills; a walk away from Whole Foods; magazine subscriptions to Foreign Policy, Time and Foreign Affairs; and a city full of ambitious people living out their dreams. All that's left to figure out is "with whom."

So until Mr. Pretty Damn Good shows up, I plan to make this dating game fun.