The End

I realize that it has been far too long since I last wrote anything on my blog, but over the past few several months, there has been more handwritten journaling than online story sharing. And for good reason, I think. 2012 was filled with lots of thoughts about who I am, trying out new things, and getting more in touch with my own photography techniques, but I did not do nearly as much as I had planned originally – especially in relation to this blog. As I’m sure those of you, who may or may not still be following, may have guessed, I’ve definitely “taken a break” from this blog. It wasn’t entirely intentional, but become that way as more time passed.

There were (and still are) too many thoughts crossing through my mind and ideas that I need to hash out on paper, as they are a tad too confusing for me to do here; and while I’ve loved sharing my images from my classes over this past year on this blog, I do not know if it is necessary at this moment in time. I find handwritten journaling so much more freeing and helpful at this point in time. One day I know I will start a blog again, but I also know that it will be related to my photography business, but that is a while off yet.

So, I just wanted to give a proper “goodbye” here. Thanks for following, and I hope our paths will cross in the near future. 🙂

~Laura

What You Want to Know::Everything I Hoped For

“Was it everything you hoped for?”

I’m going to be honest here. I honestly didn’t know what I “hoped for” when moving here. Well, that’s not entirely true. I hoped for a safe flight and a wonderful time spent traveling and building a new life with my [then] new husband, in which I would be able to save up money for our future back in the U.S. I had the feeling that, yes, I was supposed to come here, and the original plan was to stay here two years, but now Jeremy’s been here for almost five years and I’ve been here for three. Not quite what we expected, but I can’t say it hasn’t been what I hoped for.

I’ve actually been giving this a lot of thought lately. I have come to the realization over the past year and a half or so that I didn’t have any specific goals in mind except to save money. I thought I would pick up more of the language as time went on, maybe take some classes, but life happens, and bad jobs happen, and let’s just say we’ve finally able to begin saving money over these past few months. Before reaching this point, though, there were some bad times, and one of the problems is that when you are doing something just for the money, and that’s your only goal, well, then, “Houston, we have a problem.” (Pardon the old quote.) It’s been hard to find things that fill that longing in my soul, the things that make me feel complete. But in the end, I’m glad I was able to start here because I have grown a lot since being here. I’ve learned to better accept rejection. I’ve grown closer to God because of all of my down time. I’ve learned that there are some things I can do, even with limited communicative abilities, and I’ve learned what I want to do once I returned home. That’s more than I could have hoped for, especially since coming here unaware of the things I would be missing back home can sometimes take over my mind and overshadow the good things. When I left the states, I was open to all possibilities, and sometimes that was good, but it also sometimes left me feeling empty and confused.

But despite all of this, one of the things that I can tell you is what I’ve learned and what I now hope for in the future, upon returning back to the states. I hope to follow through on my dreams and succeed (despite whatever rejection or however many failures I may encounter first). I hope to travel more – in a way that really allows me to enjoy it. (Sometimes here there is just never enough vacation time… lol) I hope for a loving life and family that is supportive and happy. I hope to find every opportunity to celebrate and enjoy life. I hope to become involved in “extracurriculars” again. I hope to spend as much time as possible with friends and people I love, and I hope that all of my decisions are in line with the will of God.

I really don’t regret my life here, and I will remember it fondly, but there are times when I wish that I would have thought more about what I really wanted out of all of this because some days I can’t help but wonder if I’m “doing it right.” But I have hope for the future, and I am looking forward to the next step.

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Thank you for all your questions! They’ve really made me think, and have gotten me through the summer. This is the end of What You Want to Know (for now), and starting next month, I’m planning on doing something a little bit different, but all based on things I thought of while answering your questions. Thank you; you’ve been a great help! 🙂

Image by Laura Smith

“Sometimes the only thing to do is to start looking at everything again until you forget what you’re supposed to see & actually see what’s there” ~storypeople

What You Want to Know::My Favorite Place

Here in Taiwan it’s hard for me to choose just one place that I could call my favorite place, since there are quite a few places I have yet to go to and also there are quite a few that I like. So, to answer Therese’s question: “What is your favorite place in Taiwan?”, I would have to answer: the mountains.

Image by Laura Smith

I didn’t grow up near mountains. Sure, Michigan has some hills, which are nice, but mountains are truly majestic – especially if you are able to view them during a gorgeous sunset:

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

And they also allow for great exercise.

Image by Laura Smith

And when the clouds and fog roll in, it’s so mystical that I have to stop in my tracks every time.

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Every time I make it into the mountains, I feel so incredibly calm. I try to do my best to find a little place away from the other people on the same path, which is easy on a weekday, but definitely hard on the weekends. I always feel so calm, peaceful, and connected when I’m in the mountains. I feel like there is so much they have to tell and their massive, immense size definitely reminds me of how small we really are.

Image by Laura Smith

Sunset

Here is a sunset from Sanxian – one of the prettiest nights of our 2012 Chinese New Year road trip.

Image by Laura Smith

What Do You Want to Ask?

Hey all! I sent out a FB status the other day, but want to post here, too, for those lovely people in the blogging world who I’m not connected with via the facebook.

I am looking for your questions. Now that my Picture Series classes are officially over, I am starting a new installment for the summer here on the blog, where I want to know your questions about what my life abroad here is like. This could be anything from culture,  food, misconceptions about them and/or us, to just livin’ it up. Let me know what you want to know! 🙂 (Oh, or if you’d prefer, I would be up for some photo scavenger hunt requests, too, if you’re not sure of a question to ask.)

Please leave a comment below or send me a message or comment on Facebook and ask away! I’ll be including some of my own stories into the mix, but would appreciate your input so that I have a good starting point.

Thank you!

Image by Laura Smith

Cracked [Day 14]

Image by Laura Smith

As mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been trying to delve into my inner self again. I’ve mostly been posting pictures lately because, despite having ideas for what I want to start writing here, I’m not sure I have more words to describe everything yet. I’m still figuring things out, as it’s all a part of that “culture shock” experience – that ebb and flow of growing and expanding in new environments and situations. Thankfully, after living abroad for three years now, I’m used to it and can recognize when each phase is occurring, but this time it’s hard to find the words because I think it’s just a bit more than that. This time it seems to also be more about the growing and expanding of myself in general. I find myself searching for things, and that search brings me to looking inward, searching for something within myself – trying to crack myself open, so to speak, in order to find those parts that have been hidden away for fear of beingtoo exposed here.

I already all too often feel as though I am already exposed enough (both good and bad) in this part of the world – especially in regards to looks. I try to dress down as much as possible, to blend in so that I don’t draw any more attention [as a foreigner] than I need to. Thus, I have found myself beginning to collect magazine clippings of things that inspire me, things I think represent me, and things that I feel really are me – even though I may not have done/had it before because, like I said, I’m trying to crack myself open and get back in touch with the real me again – the one that’s not determined by how others perceive me. (Collages helped express myself when I was younger, so why not now? It is good to revisit the past sometimes during times like these.)

In general, this is an interesting point for me in my journey here. We now have basically one year left here, so I do want to make the most of it, but (as hippie-dippy as this may sound) my introverted self wants that time to be enjoyed hidden away in the mountains like a hermit, rediscovering my values, my interests, and my purpose(s) here in life. However, I’m doing my best to find what’s be pushed aside and hidden away without quitting my job or finding my own little crack in the wall to hide my whole self in…

Life Lately

…has been a bit of a struggle. A struggle between the things that I need to do, the things I want to do, and the things that I feel I need to do. Life in Taiwan (for me) is interesting in this respect. See, as an ESL teacher, I find myself with much freedom to travel around and do things I feel like doing. But I don’t do them as often as I would like – or feel I should. The way my brain works is that I believe that I can’t do anything like that until after I have accomplished my main priority for the day, which is why I tend to procrastinate on certain projects (like this blog) or certain little things that are probably easy, which, depending on their necessity in relation to the rest of my day. So, because none of my classes start until the late afternoon, I feel as though I should not be going out  anywhere or doing anything until that is taken care of. Basically until 11PM when I return home. (What?!) (Oh, yeah, did I also mention I’m a morning person? lol)

My personality is also one to say, “Wait, you have things you should be doing; so, you cannot have fun until those are done.” I’ve been working on overcoming this, but it follows the same lines as above. Instead of exploring, I’ll think about how I should do the dishes or score those essays that aren’t due for five days, despite that this may be the only sunny day of the week here in cloudy Taipei, or despite my quiet internal voice saying, “Hey…I wanna read…pleeeas?”
So, what happens? I continuously check my email to see if my boss has comments on the previous essays I scored or if I can find new material for my classes or come up with new ideas for my tutoring sessions…or nothing productive at all. The things that I need to do or want to do because I’m “addressing the things that I should do” never seem to come before those things that are taking top priority in my life – the shoulds, and of course the actual musts.

Which leads me to my next point. Taiwanese work way too much and way too long because their bosses say that they should, and it’s so easy to get sucked into that lifestyle, as I’ve mentioned before. Seriously. So, despite wanting to change the way I plan my day and do things on a day-to-day basis here, I haven’t yet because this one (at least seems) a bit tougher. When so many people around you don’t, it’s hard not to follow along. And with so many people expecting me to be working on something all of the time – in other words, appearing relatively busy – leads me to think that if I’m not working on the aforementioned shoulds, then what am I “wasting” my time on? Nothing…and everything. (Obviously.)

See, in a culture where the bosses assume/know you only work work at your desk for 1/2 the time you’re there, they make you practically work double shifts so that you work the appropriate amount of time. E.g. 8AM-5PM is the normal working time, but that means you have to work anywhere from 8AM-10PM so that you’re working-working at least 6 hours of your day. Seriously, I’m not kidding. Thankfully, I’m not under the same requirements as a foreign teacher, as our laws are a bit more precise, but the ideology is there. And this idea has nestled itself so neatly into my mind over the past three years that now I have begun to think that if people don’t see/think I’m working, then indeed they may think I’m not a good employee or doing what I’m supposed to be doing either. (This is also why I don’t take vacations even though an advantage of my employer is that it’s easy to. Ugh)

Which brings me to my wants. There are things I really want to do throughout the day and my time here (and just in general), and I think that because of all of these other ideas and beliefs that float around in my mind, there are so many things that I’m missing out on because of it all.

  • “I want to go out and explore both new and familiar places again – really sit/walk and enjoy them.” I realize I have priorities and things I must do, but, “Wait, there may be some speaking tasks that need to be scored that come in today,” should not be one of them.

Other excuses that follow this logic include:

  • “I want to go outside and read.” “Well, then read that TOEFL book for class prep.”
  • “I want to go out and enjoy some time with friends.” “Wait, what? NO – you have to clean the apartment…”
  • “I want to write/blog.” “Well, good, ‘cuz I’m sure some essays will be coming in for you to edit.”

There are so many more excuses and other wants to go along with all of those excuses and wants, but the main point is that I really want to quit this habit, and obviously, the only person who can do that is me. I want to take the time to enjoy life here and really grow because, while in some ways I feel like I’ve changed and I feel like I’ve experienced things, there are also many ways in which I feel like I haven’t actually grown that much either. In fact, I actually sometimes feel like I’ve regressed in some areas. But maybe that’s part of showing progress? I don’t know, but for instance, now I’m not so much afraid of public speaking anymore, nor am I afraid of being rejected during interviews, or of trying new, strange foods – well, usually – but in the same respect, I don’t feel I’m as outgoing as I was in college, and sometimes I feel like parts of me have become lost. I know this is somewhat common to different degrees in people, but for me, I do believe this is [at least partially] because of all of these shoulds I keep telling myself.

So, today I took a small step forward. I did something I wanted to do in spite of those shoulds. I took some white wine outside and a new book I found and have been waiting to indulge in, and I read. I took time to read and enjoy myself on this rare sunny day. (Don’t worry, it was 3PM – no morning drinking here! lol.)
And it was grand.

Image by Laura Smith

What do you do when you are confronted with all of those shoulds? Do you ignore them and do what you want, or do you succumb to those excuses, too?