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Friday, July 8, 2016

Life Lessons From a Pineapple

I'm going to start this post by offering some unsolicited advice.

I've been home for exactly one month. Its been one month of hugs, family, food, a trip to Disneyland, an interview and a job offer, trying to buy a car and figure out what it looks like to live in America. I've spent time with people but a lot of time by myself, too. Here's my advice: if you know someone who just got back from studying, working, or living abroad and want to know about their experience try asking specific questions.

I've most appreciated those people who pinpoint their questions because a specific question is much easier to answer than the giant "how was Micronesia" question. That one is easy to ask but overwhelming to answer. It's much easier to answer questions like: How was the food? What was your job like? Did you really wear muumuus? What do you miss the most? What's the best part of being back? I want to ask better questions when my friends return stateside and I want to challenge you to do the same.

Besides those people who ask specific questions, I've found myself incredibly grateful for the ones who have made this transition themselves. I've had people ask me, "But Emily, how are you really? Because when I moved back after living in _______ it was really hard." Those people remind me that I am not alone and it's ok to feel a plethora of complicated, contradictory feelings all at the same time.

In between eating spinach salads and figuring out how to be in America, I've thought a lot about the life I want to create. Moves offers a fresh slate and I've been thinking about how I want to fill mine. It all comes down to capacity and choice.

We carry with us, as human beings, not just the capacity for different actions and emotions but the very choice of how we want to live.

Each person has capacity - the capacity to be kind, to be loving, to be joyful or jealous or angry. It's in all of us.

What's really beautiful, the part that's profound and moving, is choice.

Capacity is our baseline, choice is our heart. We all have the capacity to be kind, but there are some who choose to be kinder than necessary. I appreciate and look up to those people. We all have the capacity to show hospitality, but I witnessed more hospitality during my 2 years in Pohnpei than the 22 years before. We all have it in us to be open-minded, but it takes the choice to put open-mindedness into action.

Have we chosen to be helpful today? To be humble? To be truthful? To step outside the noise of our own lives and offer generosity to others? We all have the capacity but each of us must make the choice. And it's not easy because after the choice comes the work of actually living that virtue out, but we must, or else we will forever live admiring the choices others have made to tell the truth or be compassionate but we'll never have lived that way ourselves.

Living in Pohnpei changed my life. I worked harder, sweated more, learned how to build a life and navigate a new culture. I'm a truer version of myself, now, thanks to the past 2 years. I am more of the woman that God made me to be. I'm a vastly different person today than 2 years ago. My dreams have changed, the way I see and interact with the world has changed, the way I think has changed. It happened slowly, day-after-day of small choices and moments and mindsets. It's hard to describe but I want you to know that my spirit and heart have changed. My life is forever marked by this season.

I have a simple motto these days:

Be a pineapple.

Now, I have a mild obsession with pineapples. Eating pineapple, pineapple shirts or journals or keychains. Ever since I found this phrase on pinterest I've been a sucker for anything and everything pineapple.

Stand tall, wear a crown, & be sweet on the inside. Pineapples hit on three key choices I want to make every day which I got to practice in Pohnpei - to be confident, take care of myself, and be kind.

Stand Tall
Was I qualified to be the tech expert, the accreditation paperwork writer, the curriculum editor? Not particularly. But I was willing to put in the work and I had confidence that I would do a good job, even though I hadn't done it before. I was confident and I was my own biggest cheerleader. I did a lot of 'faking it until you make it' and honestly, I don't think anyone ever knew. That's what happens when you stand tall, have confidence in yourself, and aren't afraid to work hard and ask questions.

Wear a Crown
I think too many people forget to take care of themselves. Maybe they think they don't deserve it or have too many responsibilities or too little time, but Pohnpei pushed me to my limit and taught me that I have to take care of myself. My self-care often involves working out, reading, and going for walks. Those are the things that I do to fill myself up so I can give to others. Everyone's self care is different but it truly is the most important thing you can do. Please please please remember that you are wonderful and please please please take care to keep yourself feeling whole. You wear a metaphoric crown and deserve to treat yourself that way.

Be Sweet On the Inside
No matter what happens, be kind. There is hate and injustice and heartbreak in this world. In the past 48 hours news stories have brought me to my knees, brought tears to my eyes, made me wonder what in the world I can do to help and made me whisper fervent, broken prayers. All I know is that no one will get mad at you for being extra sweet to the cashier or your co-worker or your family. Lets spread LOVE. No matter what is happening be sweet on the inside and let it show on the outside.

These are my mantras.

Thank you for reading them and for reading about my life the past 2 years. You came to Pohnpei with me and I hope you are richer for it, I know I am. I hope these posts left you with more hope than you started the day with. I hope they made you think and evaluate your own life. I hope they gave you a peak into my heart and a glimpse into the wonderful island of Pohnpei. Most of all I hope you saw God in the stories I shared and words I wrote. Because I see God in each one of you, and I hope you see Him in yourself.

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