I've been struggling with my kitchen chairs lately. I know, a silly thing to struggle with, but nonetheless, I have found myself thinking about them at odd moments, then suddenly feeling irritated. Like when you wake up from a nice sleep and remember something crappy that happened that day. My kitchen chairs are haunting me. But mostly only when I walk into the kitchen.
They are all three different. The black one was from freecycle last year, and we even lugged it down here from Idaho. The metal "church chair", I purchased from Deseret thrift store for $3, and the wooden chair was donated to the yard sale last month. Nobody wanted to buy it because it was broken, kinda dirty, and ready to be dumped. Therefore, it is now in my kitchen.
So, why don't I just go kitchen chair shopping? I could scour the thrift stores for a week, check craigslist, go yard sailing, and probably end up with a nice, matching set for under 50 bucks. But, I won't do it.
I won't do it because every time I think about buying new chairs, I am reminded about my new perspective.
When I traveled to Southeast Asia 9 years ago, I was 21 years old, and ready for adventure. I flew into Bangkok to meet up with some friends. All we had was the backpacks on our backs, our passports, and enough currency to get us food, lodging and buses. We ventured down through Thailand, across the border to Malaysia, then caught a ferry across the ocean to Jakarta, Indonesia. Along the way we sailed out to different surrounding islands, slept in bungalows, swam in beautiful lakes and oceans, tried new, exotic foods, and met other foreigners traveling just like us. It was definitely an adventure, with unforgettable stories, which I have kept safe in my traveling journal to remember forever.
It was just like I wanted!
But what I didn't realize was that this adventure would change me forever, influencing my life for years to come, in ways I never imagined.
Along the way I saw many things I'd never seen; people living and doing things I'd never witnessed before. Cultures that were so different from mine, and almost incomprehensible to me. I remember being constipated for 7 days straight because I couldn't figure out how to use the bathrooms in Malaysia. I still don't think I know how. (A hole in the ground, a bucket of water, and a cup???) I remember seeing entire villages of houses in Indonesia made out of metal and cardboard, with one, big Karaoke machine in the middle. We would always stop and watch all the kids singing karaoke in their underwear and flip flops. They were always laughing hysterically at one another, as they belted out American tunes they didn't understand.
I remember vividly, hearing the loud call of the Muslim prayers, as each man and woman bowed down to the East on Jakarta. I remember feeling exposed and shameful, when someone asked me to please cover my arms, out of respect for their religion. I remember snorkeling in an oceanic coral reef, with sea snakes and puffer fish, and the most beautiful and exotic sea creatures I've ever seen!
But, what changed me most was feeling like I was insignificant beyond measure. It was like I suddenly saw this huge world out there, filled with millions of people, and I felt like nothing. It was a huge blow to my self esteem, to my understanding of who I was and where I fit in, to my understanding of what my purpose was in this world?? I don't know why I felt this way, but I spent quite a few nights alone in my bungalow on Ko Samui island, searching for answers. With laughter all around me from foreigners on holiday, I must have looked like a miserable outcast.
I flew into Los Angeles sometime in August, after a long, airplane ride home. I was going to stay longer and explore the Northern mountain villages of Thailand, but something told me it was time to get on with life and go back to my own country.
I didn't tell anyone I was flying in, so no one was meeting me in the airport. I got off my plane and sat in the baggage claim area for a while, trying to decide what to do with myself.
Still feeling self conscious and out-of place, It was right then that I had the most powerful awakening.
I looked around and felt the most magical high in the world as I realized that I could do anything I wanted. And furthermore, I could be anyone I wanted, I could believe anything I wanted, I could love anyone I wanted, I could spend my time doing whatever I wanted. This amazing feeling of freedom and clarity came over me. God gave me the will to choose for myself, and it was my personal mission to become the person I wanted to be!
I jumped onto a subway after that, and sat there with the biggest grin on my face ever. I looked around at the folks getting off of work, with their long faces and sad eyes, and wanted with all my heart to tell them what I found out! I was the only white person on the bus, heading into downtown Los Angeles. I normally would have felt awkwardly out of place, yet I felt a deep connection to these strangers, as they are my brothers and sisters.
I wanted to scream at the top of my longs-- "FREEDOM!!!!!!!We have the freedom to find truth, to get educated, to help people, to love people, to have families, to have hobbies and interests, There is so much to see and do! Let's do it!"
But all I could do was sit there and try not to burst into laughter.
I arrived in a little California town called Camarillo after 3 subway switches, and a train ride. I called up a friend and she came and got me from a bus stop, where I had been scribbling down all the things I wanted to accomplish in my life.
Things such as:
Pray and find religious truth.
Find peace in who I am.
Get an education.
Look at people's hearts, not their outward appearances.
Love everyone in the world, despite differences in race, religion, and culture.
Read more, love more, serve more.
Become closer with my family.
Be grateful for all the little things and never take anything for granted.
Never, ever, ever, ever, care too much about material things.
Share what I've got with those around me.
Never get caught up with superficial matters.
Be real. be natural. be myself.
Be open to others' ideas.
And most importantly, remember this perspective and live by it every day of my life.
I know I haven't lived up to everything on my list, because as time goes by I have become numbed by my surroundings. But, I know that this perspective still lives inside me. I know that there are so many great things we can accomplish and be in this world. I know that I have a very important purpose here on Earth, among the many other millions of people that live here. And most of all, I have found happiness.
I also know that there are more important things out there to worry about and do, than the quality of my kitchen chairs.
Maybe my kitchen chairs will always serve to remind me to live by my new perspective.