Being Thankful

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Today is Thanksgiving.  If you’re reading this from somewhere not in the Asian/Australian/Russian time zones, then you have to wait a bit.  But feel free to get your thankfulness on a little early.  And a fair warning… this post might be a little sappy for some of you.  Don’t feel as though you have to read on.  If you choose to, be prepared for a big bottle of sappiness to be dumped on your face.

Being over here has been difficult.  I’m not going to say otherwise.  And amidst all the bullshit of finding new friends, hot weather, job tension and stress, inability to get around cause you can’t speak the language, lack of comfort, etc… we lose our sight of what’s important.  I’m completely guilty of this.  Actually, lately, I’ve been the queen of this.  So, that’s why I found it important to write this post.  And in reality, this post was more for me than it is for you.

I’m thankful for my mom.  I’ve always been thankful for her, although I probably don’t show that enough.  She recently came out to visit and after thirty years, I felt as though this was the first time we got to spend significant time together.  It was special.  And I’m thankful she took the time to come here.

I’m thankful for Skype, Facebook, and email.  Yup, sounds stupid to be thankful for social media crap, but in all honesty, these things have been the glue for many of my lasting relationships.  Without it, I would be detached from my family and friends lives and unable to see the faces of the people I love.  So there, I justified why I’m thankful for social media.

I’m thankful for my family.  The whole damn bunch of you.  Nieces, nephews, aunts, sisters, uncles, cousins, brother in laws, stepdad, dad, all of you.  You are my backbone and even though your protectiveness over me drives me mad some days, I know it’s because you love me.  And I’m grateful for that.

I’m thankful for my boyfriend, erik and pretty much everything about him.  I never in a million years would think that someone that is so patient, supportive, and kind all in the meanwhile listening to my emotional rants would enter my life.  Thanks for loving me.

I’m thankful for my friends, near and far.  You’ve turned my tears to laughter and brought me so much comfort.  I can’t tell you how much those extra bottles of wine during dinner conversations or how much those hugs mean to me.  There are no words.  Just know that your listening ears and non-judgmental ways are incredibly appreciated.  I hope I give as much to you as you do to me.

I’m thankful for my job.  Not the meetings, the stress, and the pressure.  The kids and the team I work with.  The students are the reason I wake up (really effing early).  The dance parties, the hugs, the “OH! I get it!” moments, the community, the compliments, the tears (cause they do happen), the questions, and the joy.  They really are just precious.

I’m thankful for Thailand.  You’ve chewed me up and spit me out, many times with scrapes, bruises, and often some sort of infection, but I still love you.  You’ve taught me patience and stillness.  I’ve (slowly) learned to be calm (jai yen yen) when things didn’t go my way and learned that first world problems are just that: get the hell over it.  And most importantly, I’m learned that yes, everything will be ok (mai pen rai kaaaa).

I’m thankful for my traveling experiences.  Ya, all of them.  Even the ones where I ended up crying in the middle of a street because I’m lost or when I was so exhausted in the midday sun riding my bike up a huge hill, each of these experiences I learned and grew from.

I could go on and on about the small things in life that I’m thankful for (i.e. wine, yoga, working out, Girl Talk, my iPhone, music, fresh fruit, my apartment, my pool, thai food, etc…) but I’m not going to.  Cause those that I highlighted above bring me the million other things I’m thankful for.

Spanish love

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Spain.  If you’ve been, then you know.  If you haven’t then you need to go.  I love this country.  I love almost everything about it.  The convenience of travel, the sangria, the wine, the hot men, the beautiful weather, the wine, the sangria, the beaches, the history, the hot men, the sangria.

I had every intention of making this post a two parter: Part 1 being “Oh my shit, I’m going to survive my masters courses” and Part 2: “oh my shit, I never wanna leave”.  But then I slacked and got too busy, so this two parter is now a two parter in one post.  get over it.  it’s a long one.  But I had to organize it according to categories.  Cause I’m a teacher and most of us are Type A.

Masters
This was my reason for going to Madrid.  After hardly surviving my undergrad, I am now hardly surviving my masters.  Just kidding.  This is completely different.  Cause my masters is about something I am so completely passionate about: teaching as opposed to that piece of crap class FINITE math that I had to take over three, yes 3(!) times, in order to pass my undergrad.  I still don’t get Finite and nor have I used it since sitting in that massive lecture hall staring at an overhead projector full of mathematical bullshit thinking, “ya, I’m never gonna use this again”.

However, these classes were intense.  Amazing, but intense.  four courses, four weeks.  40 hr/weekly.  I knew Madrid was out there, waiting for me to explore it, but unfortunately I was chained to my computer in my badass downtown apartment writing paper after paper about innovative practices and statistics.  I busted ass though and managed 4 A’s.  so hell yeah to that.

Toledo and Segovia
The train in Spain can pretty much take you anywhere.  I took the train 30 minutes north one weekend and headed to Segovia, a small Spanish town that was taken over by the Romans many centuries ago… hence the still-standing aquaduct.  I met my friend Noelia for an evening time exploration.  She showed me around the cathedral and introduced me to some of the best tapas in Spain.  We sat at the top of the aquaduct and watched the swifts swoop through the columns as the sun set over the mountains.  Quite lovely.  One of those moments where you had to say out loud, “damn… I’m glad I have this life.”

My good friend Lindsay and her fiance Simon flew over from Ireland to stay with me for a few days.  We took a day trip to Toledo, 30 minutes south of madrid, which not until after my visit did I know that this city was known as the best sword and dagger making industry in all of Europe for many centuries.  And that explains the millions of sword and knight armor shops that line the cobble stone streets.  The city itself is mesmerizing.  It’s like a cultural melting pot of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religions with the mosques, cathedrals, and synagogues everywhere you turn.  (oh my god, does this mean that they all lived peacefully among one another at one point?!?) The three of us wondered the streets in awe.  At one point I was so in awe I fell completely over a cement post in the middle of the sidewalk.  Proud moment for me.

The Art.
Hello obsession.  Dali, Picasso, Velazquez, Gaudy… I went to so many art museums, exhibits, architectural monuments.  I couldn’t get enough.  In madrid: El Prado and the Reina Sofia.  Barcelona: Picasso Museum, Gaudy Cathedral, Casa Batllo, Park Guell.  I endlessly stared at these works of art in utter amazement trying to take all of this in.  When you actually see the Velazquez imitations that Picasso did late in his career and then actually see the original Velazquez pieces that he imitated a few days later in El Prado, it’s quite memorable.  And not to help the fact that I’m slightly infatuated with Picasso in general.  And well, Gaudy, there are just no words.  This man was an architectural genius and the way he basically OWNS Barcelona in the way that his work is EVERYWHERE is just so… lack of a better word… awesome.  The Gaudy cathedral, I’ve never been to a place that left me in such a state of wonderment (man-made that is…).  I couldn’t believe the time spent in the detail of the work both inside and outside of the cathedral.  Everything Gaudy does, trying to tie nature and architecture and religion altogether to fit gracefully into one massive monument.  It’s unbelievable.  The pictures do no justice whatsoever, but I most certainly tried…

Barcelona
It’s exactly what you would expect it to be.  As much as I really enjoyed this city, I found myself getting caught up in the mayhem of it all, which is totally easy to do… especially with my BFF Carrie, Marianne, and Courtney by my side.  The food was insanely delicious.  Courtney, carrie, and I got off the train, dropped our stuff of at our cat-smelly apartment in the Gothic area, and headed down La Rambla for some tapas almost immediately.  We learned our lesson to stay away from the highly touristy areas when we spent over 75 euro on four plates of tapas and three glasses of sangria.  But it was delicious.

Somehow we managed to get caught up playing beer pong in a bar for countless hours with a bunch of englishmen.  I’m not really sure how beer pong + englishmen = Barcelona, but somehow it worked.  After dealing with numerous assholes, and Courtney and I kicking ass (that’s why they were assholes… no man likes losing to women in beer pong, FYI.), we left walking through the streets of Gothic (which I love this area by the way…) Somehow ended up in some apartment bar in the Plaza Reial.  And then we frolicked in the plaza come 5 am.  Watching a big brawl (which I didn’t know about until the next morning), singing spanish drinking songs, and talking about Jack White.  Well, mostly just the Seven Nation Army song.  Cause these guys didn’t speak any English and I don’t speak much Spanish so our conversation mostly consisted of “duuuh, duh, duh, duh, duh, duuuuh, duuuuuuuh.”  Then Marianne and I chased around a samosa guy and got harassed by men selling beer.  “group sex?”  oh yes… that’s a way to approach women.  I’m sure that works every. time.

The next day consisted of the beach.  Cause we weren’t worthy of anything else.  Because I was in a haze trying to get out of the house, I decided 5 euro would be enough for me for the day.  Awesome.  That’s how smart I was feeling this particular day.  The  Barcelona beach is lovely, although PACKED.  I don’t like crowds.  However, it was here I realized that I am a lot more comfortable being topless than I thought I would be.

My friend Justin drove down from Andorra, gimp leg and all, and hung out with us ladies for a night.  We used to kick it back in the day on the Navajo reservation when we were both teachers out there.  Haven’t seen him in over five years.  Say what?!  Went to dinner and experienced eating a baby octopus for my first time.  Thank you Carrie sue for being my support system and eating one with me.  The flavor… not so bad.  But the squishiness of the tentacles and ugh the head!  the head of that little tiny octopus.  no.  I washed it down with some of the better sangria we had on this trip.  And that’s one of those, I can now say I did it things…

Barcelona was good… the art, the beach, Gaudy, beer pong, really awesome streets and stores, but onto Sevilla.  Oh sevilla.

Sevilla
Some places you just fall in love with.  Sevilla was one of those places for me.  We rented an apartment in the Alameda de Hercules area, a strip of small cafes and outdoor bars with hoppin’ nightlife.  The moment we arrived, the three of us were awestruck.  (Marianne had to go back to England and Justin had a dr. appt. in Barcelona).  This city has soul, charm, history.  It’s got it all.  Small pockets of fun around EVERY corner.  The locals here were nicer than any other city I’d been to in Spain.  I just love it.

The cathedral and the Alcazar (alcatraz…) were pretty memorable.  This is apparently the place where Christopher columbus’ tomb is.  But he is also buried in the Dominican republic.  hmmm.  Anyway, lots of photo opportunities within these two places, especially the cathedral which is the largest gothic cathedral in all of the world (huge).  And once again.  the pictures do no justice.

The food was incomparable to any other place we’d been.  Oh tapas, how I miss you so.  Oh wine, how I miss you even more.

The first night spent there was a little unexpected.  We went to a flamenco show (later…) and then had lots of drinks outside a scottish pub with the flamenco dancers.  (of course.  cause that’s how we roll.)  After numerous beers slammed on the table cheering to obscenities… we somehow found ourselves at a castle night club until roughly 7 am.  Yes.  it was all outdoors everything was white.  And there were clones of Spanish men in crisp white button down shirts every where you turned.  Why? Individuality is not allowed in castle night clubs.  I daaaaanced.  That was the best night I’ve had in a really long time.  oh Spanish air.  I miss you.

Triana was right along the river.  After the night before, we needed to er… slow down.  Sangria, tapas, and the river watching the sunset.  Couple of emotional moments throughout the night, knowing my time in Spain was coming to a quick close and going back to work was approaching all too fast.  Triana was insanely beautiful with views of the Cathedral across the river and dozens of riverfront bars lining the streets.

Our last night was just as lovely as the rest of the time in Sevilla was.  Talking with some of the locals about politics, drinking, dancing, just in general… celebrating life.  We were spilled out into the street for most this night bouncing from small dive bar to small dive bar.  Our new friends Alejandro and Joaquin directed us to a late night bar, and I swear I followed directions perfectly until there was literally nothing to be seen except closed doors and quiet streets.  And then a man appears.  sweeping the streets.  “pub?” as the three of us look around aimlessly.  “si!”  he opens the wooden doors and bam!  smoke and conversation pour out of this tiny side bar.  People crammed into it with the blue neon light reading “Berlin” in the background.  Yup… fell in love all over again.  Well, this is exciting.  Who would have every thought this was here?  Good conversations with people from all over the world: spain, germany, mexico… oy.

And so it was time to leave sevilla.  I left with a couple tears in my eyes, but most certainly will be back to this lovely town.

Flamenco.
I saw two flamenco shows while in Spain.  Once in Madrid when I was with Lindsay and Simon and another time in Sevilla.  The first show was right around the corner from my apartment in Madrid.  I didn’t know what to expect.  Of course I’d heard the Spanish guitar (love) and had an idea of what these shows consisted of, but never in my life would I have expected to have had this much emotion brought forward during the shows.

When I watched the first show, you get caught up in the rhythms of the claps and the foot stomping.  The singing is almost haunting in a way you wouldn’t expect it to be.  But then the dancers… the women wear this facial expression that has so much angst and seriousness written across it.  The second dancer made me cry.  I know I’m emotional and I understand that anything that happens in my life on a scale of 1-5 out of 10, I’m usually crying, but damnit.  This was just beautiful.

Now, Sevilla flamenco.  We went to Tablao El Arenal and got our minds blown.  There were three guitarists, 6 dancers and three singers.  not all on stage at once, but they came down these stairs that led right out onto the stage and just did their thing.  When I say I was completely stimulated, that is an understatement.  This evening stimulated every sense of my body the entire time I sat there.  The food mixed with the foot stomping and the hand clapping and the dancing and the music and the incredibly hot spanish men dancing.  Oy.  I just cannot explain the intensity of this show.  there was a point that I almost had to excuse myself from the table and head to the ladies room.  There was no talking between the three of us.  When they stopped dancing, that’s when we took our breaths. Really.  The music stomped, people applauded, and Carrie, Courtney and I literally went “oh my god” while exhaling for the first time since the dance started. Oh, if I could only describe the actual show to you in words… I’m trying, but I just don’t think I can.  needless to say, when the dancers asked us to beers later on, we gladly accepted.  Oh what a night.

So, Spain.  there it is.  I did attempt to summarize it.  And I did my best.  But there was so much to this place that’s it’s hard to wrap up into words.  Carrie, Courtney, Lindsay, Simon, Marianne, and Justin… Thank you for making my time there even more special.  Thank you Spain for making my summer even more amazing.  You will see me again soon.

And tomorrow begins my eighth (say whaaa?!?!  I’m THAT old?) year of teaching.  Sad to say goodbye to summer, but always happy to say hello to a new bunch of chitlins.

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home

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There’s a wall at the Guinness Factory in Dublin that quotes, “Home is not where you live, but where they understand you.”  So, going off that, I’m gonna say that yes, even though I physically reside in Bangkok, I would have a hard time calling it home mostly because I have yet to be understood.  Granted, I’m sure most people that move to the other side of the world by themselves might find that to be a common experience.  However, I shouldn’t complain. I am blessed enough to have two places that I call home… Indiana and Asheville.  And in both places I am blessed enough to have people that not only understand me, but love to hug too (oh my goodness, the hugs were endless!).  Yes, as I’ve stated many times before, I am a lucky girl.

So I’m gonna do this in chronological order.

Asheville.

I love this place.  I do.  It’s not just the fresh air or the surrounding mountains or the eclectic downtown that I love so much.  It’s the people.  the incredible group of friends that I have found over the five years of living in this humble little city.  Six solid days of binge drinking, tubing the river, eating incredible food, loving, laughing so, so much, crying over dinner, catching up with friends, hugging…  Seeing everyone was like I never left.  I truly felt like every single one of my friends and I picked up exactly where we left off.  Not saying we haven’t changed and we haven’t had numerous life experiences since the last time we talked, but first of all, the year went by like, super fast.  And second, I guess that’s just what good friends have with one another.  The ability to do that.  Awe.  Special.

Highlights:
~Downtown After 5: Usually there is some really great music that happens.  And actually the two bands headlining this particular night were better than the norm.  But how would I know this?  I was blabbing away throughout the three hours I was there.  I forgot how chaotic this event can get and how much freaking fun it is to bounce from person to person, beer stand to beer stand.  holla.
~Bywater: oy.  I loooove this place.  I think all of asheville loooooves this place.  I found myself here twice over my short trip.  First, this is where Tom Waits enters my life.  There just happened to be a Tom Waits cover band playing here after downtown after five.  Go figure.  I’m not a Tom Waits fan.  His voice reminds me of a mix of a Tim Burton movie and the cookie monster.  But what the hell… And off I went to have a night of dancing with Erik, drinking my fav (and probably too many) whiskey gingers, and more hugging.  The evening came to a close with Carrie’s and my rendition of “Home” and then I was the last person to exit the building.  minus the two bartenders.  Round two included a sun baked crowd of alcohol induced tubers that literally just came off the river to only drink some more.  And after a long day of hangoverness, I was ready to not be somewhere where alcohol was.
~Southern: about 7 hours in the same corner on the grotto.  people came and went.  I stayed and stayed and stayed.
the downtown apartment (badass…):  What do I love about this apartment?  Everything.  but two things that I loved the most were the get together Erik and I had before Downtown after five.  All my closest asheville friends in one little space.  and of course the rock climbing that went on in the bedroom.
~Kovacs and the Polar bear: I talked to the drummer (Andrew?).  He “liked” my skirt.  I told him Skeleton Crew was one of my all favorite songs (but I kinda went on and on about how much this song means to me…) and I think he was touched.  I don’t know… musicians: do you really give a shit when a lover of your music comes up to you and says, “ah, man, you really touched my heart with that song!”  Anyway, you should all know how much I love that song.  Cause it’s on my tool bar to the right under “Asheville” and it’s also posted in one of the blogs below.  Obsessive.
~Ladies dinner at the UJ: When you invite as many of the ladies that you love in asheville and just say, hey come to the UJ sometime after 6, you just don’t really know what you get.  What I got: a large group of fantastical ladies that I adore and admire all in one place all at the same time.  special?  totally.

Yes, thank you asheville.  Please don’t ever change.

Indiana.

So, my mom’s like, “so, uh, can you put one of those ‘where in the world is Melanie’ apps on your blog so we know how to keep track of you?”.  Sure mom.  Actually, do they have those things?

I have a large family.  I think we all know this.  So, the last 13 days in the states were spent seriously bouncing around visiting with family as well as hometown buddies.  Ohio-Greenwood-Minnesota-greenwood-columbus-ohio.  not in that order.  lots of nephews and their boyish charm, Brother in laws and their boyish charm as well, two sweet darling nieces, lots of sisterly love, and of course, hugs from my momma.  The family time is special.  my nieces and nephews are growing at an alarming rate and it kinda, ya ok, really breaks my heart to not watch them grow into little people.  But I guess this is the life I’ve chosen…

Highlights:
~Shelley and Luke’s pool party.  Bell’s oberon, most of my family, pool basketball, rum and sprite, cheerleading, Bon Jovi, and a diving board.  twas good times.
~meeting my new niece josie.  I flew up to Rochester, MN for literally a day and a half to introduce myself to my beloved new niece josie.  She has a perfectly round face, just like her daddy Craig.  And she is just a doll.  Just like her mom Mindy.
~Toilet papering Matty’s house.  Yup.  I’m thirty and I am TPing a friends house.  Sorry matty.  Myra, Heather, and I have now made this a tradition for every time I am back in town you will be attacked by the toilet paper rolls.
~Waking up to Jude screaming in the crib next to my bed.  This isn’t something that I prefer in my life.  Screaming babies at 430 am is not something that I would welcome by any means.  However, if you know Jude, then you probably understand why this was a highlight for me.  This boy smiles all. the. time.  Constant.  So when he starts screaming in his crib, it first, well, scared the living hell out of me, and then second worried me.   I pick him up and he wraps his little monkey arms and legs around you so tight that you just never think he’d let go.  Well, that’s cause he wouldn’t.  He’s fine as long as you’re holding him and telling him it’ll all be alright and then the moment you let him go to put him back in the crib, “aaaaaahhhh!” like the earth was crumbling.  so this was a routine for about 25 minutes and as precious as he was with his tight grip around my neck, the moment I heard Jim wake up, I handed him over to his papa.  Cause I wanted to go back to sleep.  love you jude.
~Kings Island.  Particularly the moment where My two brother in laws and I rode on a kiddy ride with no kids.  awesome.  And also seeing my Bear ride her first rollercoaster without any fear.  I was so proud of her.

And so it is… I’m out of the states and now in Madrid where I arrived yesterday to start another (awesome) chapter in my life.  That’s for another blog post.  Thank you friends and family for making my time home as perfect as I needed it to be.

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first year. check.

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It’s 5:30 am in Cairo. I’m on my way home.

Back in July when I left for this adventure, today seemed light years away. I was scared, I was nervous, anxious, excited, ecstatic more like it, and heartbroken. And while most feelings of July still consume me today, I am going home with a head full of new thoughts and a heart full of emotions and experiences.

Yes, yes. I’m a lucky girl.

So, because the first year has officially come to a close, it would be bad manners for me to not do a wrap up of my first official year abroad in thailand. And mind you. it is now 6 am after an 8 hour flight. I’m going to mess something up.

To my kiddos. you are all so very, very amazing. I know you won’t be reading this blog (I sincerely really, really hope that you don’t read this blog), however, I just want to put it out there that you all have taught me so much. Most of all patience and joy. I can’t begin to tell you the amount of joy you each brought to me every day. Thank you for making me laugh. And sharing your thoughts, learning, and experiences with me.

To my friends, especially Jamie, Lisa, Amanda, ashley, and Toya. You girls saved me on numerous occasions. Thanks for the looooong talks, with tears and sadness or joy and laughter or hell, all of these together. I don’t know if I would have ever gotten through some of my “phases” if it wasn’t for you. Thank you.

And Lisa and Amanda, I’m going to miss you crazy ladies. Amanda, melbourne 2013! Lisa, you just tell me where you land, and I’ll make a trip.

To Beckie. You changed me. the adventures we had together are incomparable. You opened my eyes and because of that, I’m heading for many, many new adventures that I never thought I’d have. Thank you.

To my friends and family back home. Your support and love was felt from across the world. I can’t begin to tell you how important the skype dates, emails, Facebook posts, letters, and packages were my first year here. Thank you for your kind words and your continual support no matter how often I screw things up, shake things up, will screw things up, or in general, scare the hell out of you. Cause just so you know, there will be lots more of these moments.

To thailand. Oh thailand. what a gem of SE Asia you are. As I was walking home last night (Friday night? What day is it?), I realized that I will only be away from you for two months, but I will miss your non stop chaos, your “mai pen rai” state of mind (cause you are so right, everything is always alright), your patience, and smiles. Thank you for treating me so well.

To my adventures future and past. You taught me (and will teach me) a lot. talk to people. let go. relax, love life. have fun. dance. a lot. seek out new adventures. Thank you for helping me become a person that knows how to do most. I’m working on the rest. Dancing… I still don’t know how to do it well, but that’s not going to stop me.

I’m feeling a little sentimental looking back on this past year. There’s been so much awesomeness that went on (as well as a lot of very, very difficult times), it’s sad to see it go by so quickly. But onto a really kick ass summer, full of new travels, classes, new and old relationships, family love, river runs, beer drinking, spanish tapas and beaches and hot spanish nights, and hugs. lots of hugs.

Finding time to dance

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We’re all busy. I’ve recently corresponded with a dear friend of mine and we both realized that it had been nearly 5 months since we contacted one another. That’s just ludicrous. I understand that we get caught up in our everyday lives… school, work, children, errands, working out, drinking, boyfriends, girlfriends, dogs, etc… Everything keeps us busy.

I’m not any better. Hell, I’m trying to remember where this year has gone… But what I’m attempting to do is to slow things down. It’s possible. I swear. I’m gonna do it. Often I hear, especially now with the school year closing up, “I can’t wait”, “god, is _______ here yet?”, “Oh my goodness, I can’t wait till this is over”. I started ridding these quotes from my vocabulary a little while ago after some dear friends of mine moved out of asheville. All that it’s doing is wishing our time away. then that means that we’ll just get older quicker. I don’t wanna get older. I don’t want to get older quicker.

So we are all moving at rapid paces. But we all need to take a little time to do something totally enjoyable. yup, ladies and gentlemen. That’s dancing. I’ve always loved to dance, but I have reached a level of loving this extracurricular activity to its maximum potential. I totally suck at it. I’m not talking in any sort of organized manner. I’m just talking about you, your ipod, an open space (it really doesn’t even need to be an open space. chairs and tables make for great props.), and of course some really good tunes. If you need some help, here:

or try this one as well:

(pretty incredible video as well…)

There are also a couple on the sidebar. I won’t steer you wrong.

So, what inspired this blog was our lovely ES music staff here at school taking time out of their insanely busy schedule to put on an ES music assembly. While transitioning, they had clips of us teachers sharing our joy in music. Regardless of our slightly demanding schedule at school, we have to chill out sometimes. and sometimes “chill out” means to make a complete ass of yourself. but in the end, it’s completely liberating.

The point is, the world is moving rapidly. we just need to find time to enjoy it.