Thoughts of Frost

The best way out is always through.
Robert Frost

Ever since I arrived in Jordan, the other students in my program would exclaim, “You’re spending your last semester abroad in Jordan?!” And I would always respond, “Yeah. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” And, really, it did. I had considered going abroad earlier, but something always came up. Either I was cast in a show that I just couldn’t miss or there was a core class that was only offered during a certain semester. So, finally, my senior year rolled around. There I was, with no more excuses left. It was time to head to the Middle East.

Today I sit here, on my bed, having finished my last class ever of my undergrad and I can’t help but wonder, “Was I crazy?” Why did I leave everything comfortable, everything familiar, everything easy? Why didn’t I just relax and enjoy my final semester? But then – I remember why.

A person will sometimes devote all his life
 to the development of one part of his body
 – the wishbone.
Robert Frost

Truth be told, I had put all my eggs in one basket when it came to Jordan. Jordan was the symbol of my independence, my future, and my dreams. Jordan was supposed to make my future clear. It was intended to mature and refine me. It was going to be the perfect way to end university, because it was going to make me the person I’d always wanted to become. Quite clearly, Jordan was my wishbone. And I was wishing for the world.

About halfway through this crazy experience, I realized Jordan was just another place. A place filled with beautiful people who love nothing more than to pour their love (and food) into you. A place filled with taxi drivers who really just want to be your new best friend. A place filled with sad kittens who paw through dumpsters looking for something to eat. A place filled with men who stare you up and down or worse. But, still, just a place. There was no secret palace filled with all of my future’s secrets. And there was no magical genie waiting to grant me my every wish.

This reality overwhelmed me. There were days when I felt like maybe, after all this, I had wasted my time. I felt that, while my friends were back in the States applying to jobs and finishing university like normal human beings, I had slacked off and run half way across the world. But tonight, I am stepping back and realizing something. I don’t need to have everything figured out. That’s just not how life works. Life is not ever going to be perfectly laid out for us. Life is messy and things can change or end at any moment. We may think we have everything ready for the next step, and then life happens. I need to stop expecting Jordan to become something that no place could ever be for me – the answer.

In three words I can sum up 
everything I have learned about life:
 it goes on.
Robert Frost

Here I am, Grace Pilet, stopping and looking at what Jordan really was for me. Jordan was my teacher. And it taught me that every day is an adventure. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding a camel in Wadi Rum or if you’re just catching a taxi to campus on a rainy morning. It doesn’t matter if you’re practicing Arabic grammar for hours or if you’re in the middle of a war in Jerusalem – there is always an adventure waiting for you. Life is yours to be had, day in and day out. I don’t want the adventures to stop. Just because my time in Jordan is coming to an end, does not mean that I must have everything figured out. In fact, if I had everything figured out, there’d be no room for the adventures. And, friends, there must always be room for adventures.

So, was I crazy? I guess the answer to that was – yes, I was. But, I’d like to think I came out even a little crazier, filled with excitement for the unknown. I don’t have my life figured out. I don’t even know what this next year is going to hold for me. But I do know it’s all going to be okay. After all, now I’m even more ready for my next adventure.

Jordan was not the answer. But, perhaps, Jordan was just the beginning.

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‘Tis the $eason

As you know, I have lived in all sorts of places. Everywhere from Midwest USA with their plethora of fast-food restaurants to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia with its very hairy yaks. And in all of these places, I noticed something interesting. Not about them, but about me. My status as a person changed, depending on where I lived.

The concept of wealth and these changing lifestyles are not new to any of us. But I never considered, until now, the significance of this in my life. In the mid-west, my family and I were fine. You know – fine – not rich, not poor. Just fine. In Mongolia, we were the elite. Our apartments were the most beautiful. Going out to eat was a common occurrence. We could go to fancy resorts in Thailand or visit Beijing for the weekend. But that didn’t mean life was easy. Our white skin was a symbol, important because of what it meant for how fat our pockets were. Our groceries were stolen; my friend’s family had their apartment robbed. We were the envied, the “dream.”

When we moved to Seattle, Washington my family and I became poor. The cost of living was far out of our grasp and I tangibly felt the vast chasm I had fallen through. People like to say that when you’re poor you focus more on what’s important, like your family, because that’s all you have. But let’s be real, when people are poor they sometimes become so consumed with being able to feed their family that the important things continue to be ignored. Wealth is not simple. I continue to be astounded at how one can jump through social classes like hula hoops as one flies through time zones. But, I have realized that this is the nature of wealth. The Gold Rush spoke of “rivers flowing with gold,” but the reality is: a big enough wave will make the gold flow downstream – away from you.

In Amman, I have noticed again this relative concept of wealth. The majority of this country is very poor. They barely manage to survive with the money they do have. And when fuel prices rise like they did recently, the impact of that drastic change can be devastating. All this to explain that, when I see a Jordanian with an iPad, I stop and stare. Electronics are roughly 300% more expensive than in America. In America, seeing a person with an iPad wouldn’t mean much of anything to me. As a matter of fact, it’s a frequent occurrence. But seeing a Jordanian with one, shocks me into silence. The wealth of this Jordanian is something I will probably never be able to comprehend. And yet, here in Jordan, I am also one of the wealthy – me, a practically broke college student. I eat at their fast food restaurants which are considered for the wealthy. I go to one of their most expensive and prestigious universities. And yet, I will be returning to the States, a graduate of college with basically not even a penny to my name. Wealth is so relative.

As we head into the Christmas season, it’s almost impossible not to think about money. We are worried about having enough money to buy gifts for our loved ones. We make lists of all the gifts we hope to get. The season consumes and is consumed by money. I have noticed that it becomes increasingly easy to feel the pressure and stress this involves. We become upset about not getting the gift we want. We forget about enjoying the season in our rush to purchase all the gifts for friends and family. And now I apply my own lesson to myself – wealth is relative, it is temporary, it is changing. 

If we strip away the buffer of wealth that we find within our different social classes, what are we left with? Whatever the answer, this is what we should cling to this Christmas season. Even in America we see that a person’s social class can change almost overnight. With jobs being lost or medical tragedies striking, families can go from wealthy to poor in what may feel like a matter of moments. It is this that reminds us that there is so much more to life than money. And it is this that reminds us how we we are all similar in our own ways.  I constantly need to remind myself that I must guard my thinking in this area. Sometimes, I let myself get caught up in the stress of money. But, in the end, wealth will always be relative and it will always change. This Christmas season I am going to work hard to remember what is most important.

After all, “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”