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December 24, 2012

You know how you get all up in your own head and suddenly something happens with someone you care about, which shakes you loose a little bit?

My last couple of weeks have been a mixed bag. I already completed the work for which I was brought here and have been delaying finishing the rest because well, then there is no pressure to do anything. So I have been coming in to work every day but much of my time during a slow December has been spent attempting to find a place to live in DC, job searching and attempting to broaden my network.

In other words, I have had too much time to think about other things, and to reflect on a lot.

It’s been quite the five years for me. Five years ago today I was getting ready to return to MN from WA, after working in a position for six months and then being laid off. I had a house, which I was renting out to a nice couple, and I thought I had work lined up when I returned.

Things didn’t work out, and I ended up finding any work I could take (mostly temporary) and interviewing again and again. People don’t realize that the economy had already slowed by the end of 2007. After a long and painful time without a permanent position, I decided to do Peace Corps for a number of reasons: (1) to get out of my own head and stop focusing so much on myself. I knew that there had to be something I could do to help other people; (2) because it was a good thing to do and I had always been interested in it; (3) because it would perhaps bring a new skill set to the table when I am conducting a job search. Ultimately, it ended up bringing a new perspective (I hope) to me, which I don’t know that I really anticipated.

So it was that three years ago I was selling my house, giving my cats to a wonderful new parent, doing a lot of volunteer work, and wondering what was to happen next.

What happened was something that I have to admit, has probably changed me more than I realized it would, but to what extent, I may be learning for a long time. I have been pondering that a lot lately, and thinking about patterns in our lives, about people and how they impact us or how we impact them, and other musings.

So recently I have been doing a lot of such pondering and musing. Wondering what is next, reviewing the past six months, the two years before that, and such. Worrying a bit about what is next. Then I heard from A; or should I say I read her Facebook status and her journal. She is the one who gave me a wake-up a couple of years ago when she was diagnosed with a serious illness. I am happy to say that she is still fighting; however, the timing of her own reflections or other ailments is often serendipitous in that I am often caught up in myself and something happening in my world at that time, and she beings me back to reality.

This happened to me again this weekend; I sent an IM to a friend and was telling him about something that happened, and asking for his advice, and after a while he told me he could not really help me as his mom had just died the previous day.

Well, damn. I felt like a total heel.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? It is so easy to get caught up in our own day to day lives and worries that we forget that others may need us to pay attention to them and theirs. It is so easy, especially right now, to become self-focused (I hate to say self-centered because ultimately everyone is self-centered. This is not a good or bad thing; it just is). It is so easy to forget that there is so much more than just us, and so much more going on in the world than we realize. We call it the season of giving, but has it become routine in that people donate the dollar to the person ringing the Salvation Army bell, without a thought of what that dollar can do? We have made it easy, in the U.S., to give – toys, coats, money – but in making it so easy, have we also made it easy for people to feel they have satisfied the obligation to help others by giving a couple of dollars or a toy? Do we feel that we have an obligation to help others, or is it really about ourselves?

At this time of year, when people seem to be more aware of the idea of giving, perhaps it is a good time to do some re-assessment and determine whether we are doing enough for others, whether it is reaching out to a friend who is lonely and depressed or giving money to a project that is helping people (in our own backyards or in another country). It’s a good opportunity to look outside ourselves and to re-evaluate whether we are hiding our heads in the sand or trying to make our voices heard about injustices. It’s a good time to change our perspective, and remember that the person who you think is so rude may be in pain, or may be sick, or may have a mother who just died. To realize that everyone has a story; we just don’t know what it is.

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