the coffee shop prologue

Crete_bannerChania (Photo Credit: Rev Stan)

I’m sitting in an overly priced, overly hyped cafe in Dupont Circle right now sippin on a nitro cold brew, questioning my existence on this Earth. I do so periodically, as one does. I’ve never quite come to any solid conclusions about myself or purpose, but here’s hopin’ someday.

There’s a woman seated outside pushin’ Street Sense papers at two dollars a pop. The organization seeks to help homeless individuals in the community regain economic opportunity and arguably, they do so much more than just that. They’re a fascinating organization, and you can learn more about them here.

Regular commuters pass by unfazed, uninterested, annoyed; visitors flock by enthusiastically, struck by curiosity.

One woman just tried to pay with a credit card; another woman just paid and refused to take her paper.

As I sit inside watching these interactions play out, I can’t help but question how my life has cultivated into what it is today, as it is at this very moment. I could have just as easily been her, pushing papers to make a living. Just as I could been one of them, passing by on my way to an internship in DC as I arguably should have been this summer.

Then again, who decided that that was the thing to be doing.

In thirteen days I won’t be in Dupont Circle, I’ll be in Greece. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I’m saying that, much less doing it… but that is the life I have subscribed myself to.

In December of last year I found myself in a Biostatistics class sifting through emails, stumbling onto the one that lead me to discovering Learning Enterprises haphazardly. There were only four available spots for Greece, and I applied pre-rejected in my mind. But by some chance I made the cut and was offered a position by mid March of this year.

Thus began the day dreaming.

I’ll be teaching Grecian children English in Crete with an incredible international non-profit this summer. I’ll be staying with a host family and about as immersed in another culture as one can be.

I should note that I have no prior teaching experience.
And that I don’t speak Greek.
And that I really am heading into this program rather blindly.

But as I sit inside this coffee shop and  consider the last six months of my life, I realize that twenty has been an incredibly telling year. I’ve flown through a multitude of short lived unsuccessful relationships under the pretense of “finding myself”, cultivated beautiful friendships, seen myself succeed academically, and also fail. Really, truly, fail.

And fall. Hard. In just about every way a person can fall.

But in a little over thirty days those days will be all but afterthoughts. I’ll be turning twenty one and I can only hope that as I celebrate another year of existence in this world in a foreign country, I do so happily; surrounded by beautiful people and beautiful experiences, much like the scene I find myself witnessing in front of me at this very moment.

A young woman just handed my Street Sense friend a cup of water, just because, and in return she pushed a paper into her hands free of charge.

Shortly after a young business professional stopped while passing by. I was never one able to read lips, but I gather that he needed to first stop by an ATM.

He asked if she’d still be there in ten minutes, and she nodded.

The cynic in me believes he won’t return, but I’ll keep you posted.

Update: He returned.

Once my program ends, I’ll be in Athens for a few days before I set off for Italy.
I’ve yet to decide whether I’m doing Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and Rome.. or Florence and Tuscany.. but it doesn’t seem to matter, because I’m going. And the beauty of that simple statement is overwhelming.

So here’s to the adventure. And to the beautiful woman outside selling papers for a living, for providing me with perspective. And to all of you reading this. I hope you seek out adventure and escape the mundane too. Never succumb to the notion that you need to be doing this or need to be doing that. Life doesn’t run on a predetermined time table: life is this very moment, and whatever decisions you choose to make, today. So make the occasional leap, and no matter what, make the effort to be as kind to others as the strangers passing by this Street Sense vendor have been.


Upcoming posts to look out for!
the quick and dirty on collegiate travel abroad programs | what is learning enterprises, and how can you get involved?
the concept of “volunteerism” | is it western culture misappropriating yet again, or actually mutually beneficial?
traveling long, packing light: the how to (more so: an airline weight limit rant)
crash course crete history