This past fall was the one year marker of my time here in Kosovo. A whole year. That seems tiny and huge at the same time. “What is my life?” I say this at least three times a day and it’s not always said with excitement or hope.
Living in Europe can be really exciting, and I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve been able to have because of living here. But as with anything in life, the novelty eventually wears off and the dust settles and what is left is the simplicity (and monotony) of the day to day. I knew that when this time came, I would need simple rhythms that gave me space, community, and boundaries so that I could be creative and inspired and empowered.
For me personally, this has looked like creating time to write at all costs, even if I have to say no to other things on occasion. I’ve committed and invested my time in beautiful and encouraging people both here in Kosovo and back home. I focus a lot of my attention on being mindful and present as I go through my day by meditating, setting reminders on my phone, and stopping to simply take a deep breath every once and a while. These are just the tangible things, but they have proved to be so crucial to my well-being.
Why am I telling you this? Well I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it is that makes up a life. What is at the root of it? Experiences, emotions, people, places, careers, the snapshots we share and the stories we tell, all of those things are part of it for sure. But what is so obvious to me now is that what life is made of are those really simple rhythms that we create within ourselves and our communities. It’s the moment in the morning where I sit with my cup of coffee and read a couple of stories out of a flash fiction anthology. It’s sitting in the office waiting for a student to show up and searching the internet for scholarships for Kosovar exchange students. It’s calling my sister right before she has to go to work or excitedly emailing with my best friend about a creative collaboration we are working on. Listening to podcasts while I do the dishes, spending at least an hour everyday writing, planning adventures for my spring break, making tacos simply because it’s Tuesday. That’s my life. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I hate it, and a lot of times I’m totally indifferent towards it. And I’m guessing you feel all of that about your life too.
I live in Europe and someone might live on a mountain top in Nepal or in the center of New York City or in a redbrick house in suburban Georgia, but I really doubt that is at the root of what any of our lives are. A trip that I take to Slovakia or Italy or Florida is not what makes up my life. Whether or not I get a Master’s degree or published in the New Yorker is not what will give my life substance. What makes my life completely worth living is the space I create for inspiration and community. It’s the creativity and curiosity I cultivate within myself and the world around me. It’s the everyday reminders of what it means to be alive.
I think I write all of this because in my life here in this tiny Eastern European country, I often feel totally weird and isolated and out of place both with the people here and the people back home. But that’s part of the deal you make when you decide to step out into unknown territory. I guess I am just needing to remind myself, by reminding you, that at the end of the day, each one of us is left with the rhythms we’ve made and the space we’ve created. I hope that it’s a beautiful space. I hope those rhythms match the beat of your heart. I hope that even with all the moments that leave you feeling broken or the ones that simply slip by unnoticed, that there are also moments that inspire you and leave you in awe of the world and your life in it. It’s nice to remember that we aren’t so different. We all feel weird and crazy and curious and invincible and fragile, and we are all here, today. Sometimes (often times) I just need to remember that.