Thursday, June 28, 2012

"I still remember when 30 was old."

A quick google search has led me to conclude that turning 30 is marked by  advice and self-reflection in quantities usually reserved for weddings, funerals, and high school graduation speeches.  I turn 30 tomorrow, and not to be outdone, it's my turn to share the results of my introspection.  I've spent the last 2+ weeks in a hotel for work and it has given me plenty of time to ponder entering decade 3.  I would be lying if I said I didn't feel any concern about how and what I've done with my twenties.  They've been great, but not exactly according to plan.  Among other things, I spent a lot of time in school and moved a lot.  I've reflected on my serpentine career path and wondered if I'm on the right track.  I thought about men I've dated and wondered why I wasted so much time letting them stomp on my heart.  Others I wonder why on earth I didn't fight tooth and nail to be with.  As I thought about the approaching birthday, wondering if I have messed up something crucial,  I started jotting down a list of how I spent previous birthdays.  That's when I realized that in the past 13 years, I haven't been in the same place for a birthday.

17th (1999): Home in Idaho.
18th (2000): Moved to college just days before.  I'm pretty sure Mom and Dad slipped my roommates $20 to throw me a party, which they did, and I appreciated it.
19th (2001): In Amagansett, Long Island deep sea fishing.
20th (2002): In Romania at an orphanage.
21st (2003): On Afognak Island in Alaska.  I spent the day on the ocean kayaking with seals.
22nd (2004): In Tokyo, Japan.
23rd (2005): With family at the cabin in Idaho.
24th (2006): In Provo, Utah.  I achieved my goal of finishing all the requirements for my Masters program by my birthday.  I technically didn't make the copies and get signatures until the next day, but all the final edits for my thesis were done on my birthday.
25th (2007): I almost spent it in the Atlanta airport.  After nearly breaking down in tears to a Delta agent she somehow got me routed to Cleveland where I arrived at my brother's in time for cake.
26th (2008): I was in Germany watching (on TV) the final game of the Euro Cup where Germany lost to Spain.  It was the only birthday in a long time I've been with both of my sisters and my mom.
27th (2009): Yellowstone National Park working, but the rainstorm left behind a beautiful rainbow.
28th (2010): Salt Lake City, Utah.
29th (2011): Gardiner, Montana.
30th (2012): Will begin in Williamsburg, Virginia and end Washington, D.C.

None of these were trips I took for my birthday.  These were the places life took me, and I happened to celebrate another year while there.  Making this list eased my concerns about things I didn't do or achieve.  I have loved my twenties and have been exceptionally lucky--I lived fully and experienced things I never dreamed of.  But I can honestly say I'm ready to move forward, grow some roots, and celebrate my birthday in the same place for two years in a row.

I found myself profoundly grateful.  My worries reflect my social class, place in time, and nationality.  I was able to pick a field of study and spent over 8 years in higher education just learning and then not even work in that field when I was finished.  I am able to worry if my job is fulfilling or should I switch to something else.  I can be a single woman of thirty and not a disgrace or financial burden to my family.  Food is so easily accessible that I have to exercise ("vigorously" according to the U.S. Government) to be slim.  I will, on some distant day die from a degenerative condition, like cancer or diabetes, rather than an infectious diarrheal disease.  When I eventually have children, I am certain their births will be attended by a medical professional.  According to a U.S. Social Security life table, as a woman of 30 I should live another 51.5 years.  After all, they say, "Life begins at 30."  But if I lived in Swaziland, I would have just 2.15 years left.  That puts things into perspective; I am grateful that I have so much time.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Finding the right words can be hard.

Through a series of unusual events I am in the midst of six straight weeks of traveling.  It began with a trip to Yellowstone, followed by a few weeks in Japan, a quick stop in Hawaii, followed by an extended stay in Williamsburg (Virginia), visits to D.C., and will culminate in an Independence Day trip to Glacier National Park with my folks (Eve: please come too).  In between trips I return home for 24 hours to do laundry, pay bills, and open my mail.  Sometimes I even sleep a little.  The period will end on July 8 and I'll be done with airplanes, hotel rooms, rental cars, jet lag, and eating out for awhile.  However, I will be missing all the family and friends I visited.

All of this is just a way to explain the content of this post.  While in Japan I traveled with my brother and his family south of Tokyo to Kyoto and Hiroshima.  There were some beautiful, deeply moving parts of this trip, but I also started a small collection of signs translated into funny English.  Please excuse the potty humor, but there seemed to be an unusual amount of signage in Japanese bathrooms.
More signs should be written like this--it tells me exactly what I need to know.
The sign led us to a tram, which took us up Mount Misen, which apparently has very pretty views from the top.
"View from Misen where the same expression isn't shown." 
My nephew enjoying that day's "expression" from the top with a pair of binoculars.
This is my favorite!  It is the "Satellite Lover's Sanctuary" where two people can light a flame together.
The sanctuary shares a room with a cafe where lovers can make sweet bean cakes and buy ice cream.  
Here is the sign for the Sanctuary.  I enjoyed lighting my "Fire of Oath" with my niece.
Some train cars are designated for women only, especially late at night, for their safety.
This is sign in on the train platform.

I so wish I knew how to do this.  I would love to comply.
These instructions are actually very useful.  I used a few squatters facing the wrong direction until I read this sign.  When I read this sign I realized why the toilet paper was so difficult to reach.
This is to prove I saw more interesting things than just the bathrooms in Japan.