*Note – Full versions of each contributor’s June reflection can be found by clicking their full name at the bottom of this post or from the table on the project overview page.
Reflection Prompt 1:
How did you feel today? (What thoughts are on your mind on this last day of June and what caused you to feel that way?)
Paige [Korea] – Today I felt appreciated? It’s not as if I don’t feel appreciated normally, but I had a really rewarding moment today as a teacher.
I teach a class called Advanced Communication to 17 and 18-year-olds. These kids are nearly if not fluent in English, and this class is mainly to get them talking and engaging in conversation in English. One of two big projects in the semester is a TED Talk-esque presentation – a five minute presentation with a powerpoint about whatever they like.
I told the students they could come ask for my help if they couldn’t decide what to do or just wanted some help, and one of my sweetest boys came to ask me for my advice, and set up a time with me to meet after lunch. He came and we talked through his two ideas, settling on the one that he and I both felt was more unique and that we were both more excited about, with me spitballing things he could speak about under the topic until he had a lightbulb moment.
I saw the excitement flicker in his eyes as he said, “Oh my gosh, I know exactly what I can start the speech with!” and described it to me. Once making sure he felt okay and had a good basis on where to begin for writing down his script, I thought he would leave, but he didn’t – he stayed to talk to me for the rest of the class period just for fun, which was about another 40 minutes! I was so touched that he wanted to stay and talk just about different things from college to books to whatever he thought of. It really made me feel appreciated from the students’ point of view – I know they like my classes and me, but since they’re more studious and shy, I don’t get shown moments like that all that often and I won’t soon forget that time!
June 2020 can shove it.
I think everyone in the States is in the same boat of having Black Lives Matter and the general disintegration of America on their minds. It’s almost all I’m able to think about – I dream about it, I cry about it, I talk to myself in the shower about it. I can’t quite calm down, and I shouldn’t. Peoples’ lives are literally on the line, what the hell has this country come to?
I’m still working full-time as a dog walker, my research gig seemingly permanently put on hold. I’m still excited/anxious about grad school. I’m still anxious/excited about my relationship. I’m getting surgery in a few days to get out the fungus that has been growing in my sinuses for two years. Yay!! I am SO excited for that! Also, yay Pride (!), I am so proud to be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and if you are a member but do not support BLM and/or Black Trans Women, you can just fuck off because we don’t want you here.
NS [Chicago] – The year is halfway over and I’m starting to be more at peace with the state of the world. By that I don’t mean I’m satisfied with the way things are in every sense of the word, but it doesn’t feel like everything is slipping wildly out of control anymore. Across the U.S. Covid cases are rising (due to everyone’s bull-headed notion that they’re invincible), but things are gradually opening up here and I’m having more opportunities to interact with others. I’m also making some life moves (including my impending physical move to a new apartment in Chicago) and these changes keep me motivated to push forward.
Today I continued working on a task that is immensely laborious and makes me want to throw my computer at the wall, but I think I’m fairly competent at getting through things that other people wouldn’t want to take the time to do. My prize for sticking with it today was going out to eat in a restaurant for the first time in almost four months!
I met up with one of my old coworkers from the mosquito lab back in Champaign and it was really nice to reconnect in person, especially given the lack of social interaction I’ve had in recent months. We talked and ate garlic-heavy lobster rolls (strange enough coming from the heart of the Midwest) and our dinner lasted almost 3 and ½ hours on a Tuesday night. I forget often how these little distractions and unplanned interactions can make a long day feel worthwhile, so I’m extremely excited to return to a daily routine where anything is possible.
E [US] – This day was not at all what I was expecting– I believe it was day two of a family camping trip, the first time in probably 8 years all of the Malec kids had spent some quality time together (keep in mind my sister lived in Japan for 5 years and then I lived in Korea for 3 as soon as she came home).
I’ll admit that I was nervous about the trip in general (my parents, brother, and sister, AND their significant others) and not-so-excited about the prospects of the day– wine tasting. Wine gives me a nasty headache and I was already popping allergy pills like my life depended on it, any more histamines and my brain might actually just explode.
After a shorter-then-normal scenic route and a short stop to see a lighthouse (both courtesy of my father), we ended up on Mission Peninsula in northern Michigan– a place famous for its wineries.
Still in the throes of Covid, most places didn’t allow ‘tasting’ as they normally would and there wasn’t a sense that you should feel comfortable staying a long time. Maybe that accounted for why I had a better time than expected– my family normally spends way too much time at one place.
Anyway, the wine was pretty good (cherry wine at the first place was good) and everything I tried in a flight of three wines at the second place was awesome (bubbly and light!). A stop at a brewery we’d heard a lot about was not as fun, I think I liked one out of the six beers I sampled. John picked a light beer that was supposed to taste like Lucky Charms and… it did. Make of that what you will. We had been having a great time talking with my brother and his wife but today, we got picked to pair up with my mom and dad and join them on a fun, super-not-stressful trip to the most crowded Meijer I’ve ever seen, as well to a million different mattress stores because the bed in their luxury RV was too hard. *shrugging emoji* ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
As I look through pictures from that day, I also see that that was the day I got about 900 bites from biting flies that still (a month later) are a little red on my back.
Reflection Prompt 2:
How would you frame your day (answer to the first question) to a complete stranger?
Paige [Korea] – Today was a pretty typical day at work, but I had a student come ask for my help on a project and he ended up staying just to hang out and talk with me! It was really sweet and made my day!
Gigi [NYC] – My day has been good! I have a regular clientele of doggies so I’m out walking/traveling most of the day. I usually walk close to 10 miles a day and scoot (on a scooter) another 7! It’s a fantastic workout, I’m a bit nervous about the July heat coming, but I’ll make sure to hydrate!
NS [Chicago] – I wake up some days with an immense energy and longing to go out and tackle the world. I wake up other days with a slow-leaving lethargy that weighs me down until my brain is awake. When I’m assigned to do something, I want to do it well to the extent that I can. I’ve been working on some testing scripts for my job lately and there are many ways to cut corners and copy previously existing material to get the job done, but I want there to be a little Nathan stamp on my finished product. The hardest thing is making sure I have enough energy and drive left at the end of the day to keep pushing forward with my personal projects and hobbies too.
E [US] – I guess I like wine now? We went to a bunch of wineries and I liked all the stuff that didn’t taste like wine and just tasted like juice. So you can decide.
Reflection Prompt 3:
Describe something that you believe in, but there’s no concrete proof of that thing/idea existing (you don’t have to justify the belief).
What makes you continue to believe in it? The feeling? The principle behind it? Someone else instilled the belief in you? Elaborate in your own way. 🙂
Paige [Korea] – Something I believe in that doesn’t have concrete proof or evidence is soulmates. I believe people have soulmates in the world, and I leave the plural form there intentionally. I don’t think people only have ONE soulmate, but many people that they could consider soulmates. I think you also have platonic soulmates and romantic soulmates.
Platonic soulmates sort of sounds like just “best friends” but I think it’s different in my mind – a platonic soulmate is someone who you never get tired of being with, even if you live with them or go somewhere with them and you are always constantly together (you can have best friends that you would MURDER if you had to spend all that time together even though you love them). They’re someone you could live with forever and marry if you didn’t find a romantic partner, and you could be happy just having a sexless partnership together (irregardless of sex and gender, just like you are only attracted as friends, not sexually).
Romantic soulmates are what we are more familiar with, and like I said, I don’t think there is just one person for everyone; I think that you can run into different soulmates throughout your life and that doesn’t cheapen the connection, but shows that you aren’t doomed or cursed if it doesn’t work out with one single person and that too you are worthy and capable of being loved by many people that you will love with as much intensity back.
The reason I believe in soulmates and that I believe more than one can exist is because I have found my way back to an old romantic soulmate recently and am just as crazy about him as I was 7 years ago. There was nothing linking us together still and suddenly, one non-committal snapchat sent sparked a conversation that hasn’t stopped, and feelings very quickly reemerged despite being 6,000 miles apart – me being in Korea and him in America.
I had never really believed in the “if you love something and let it go and it comes back, it’s meant to be” thing, and more had told myself that as a way to comfort myself when being romantically rejected throughout the years, but I fully let go of him and was fine with it never coming back, but I’m extremely grateful it did.
I also feel I was able to believe in multiple soulmates because of him; the sort of chemistry we had back in the day when I was 18 really showed me what I wanted and I never wanted a love that felt less intense than that. Because I knew what love could feel like, I dated a lot less because I wasn’t willing to settle, but I did feel similar intensity chemistry with a few other people between 18 and now, so I knew that while he was ONE person I could feel that soulmate vibe with, he wasn’t the ONLY one.
Everything happens for a reason. Always. And whether the outcome is good or bad, you were always meant to learn something.
I’m a huge believer in this, I consistently ask myself “Okay, what were you supposed to learn from this?” if something doesn’t go the way I thought it would. Maybe it’s wisdom. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism. I am also a big believer in signs from the universe and that the universe gently guides people with energy and intention, which kind of feeds directly into ‘everything happens for a reason.’
NS [Chicago] – There are some things, many things actually, that feel better being left unexplained. It’s hard to pinpoint the time in someone’s life that they have definitively formed their values and belief system, but everyone comes to believe in something and live their life according to what they find right and wrong or valuable or unnecessary. One thing that I’ve always believed in, for no rhyme or reason, is magic and destiny. The amount of mental energy I put out into the world has always come back with interest. And when I direct a large amount of mental energy and thought toward a specific person, it always seems to reach them one way or another.
At my core, I’m probably a hardcore romantic and that plays into my notion of destiny as well. The idea that two souls can become intertwined through the mere chance of becoming acquainted, then growing together, and ending in a total commitment to the other soul. It’s romance on a whole other level and something that I strive for. There’s nothing sexier than taking the time to get to know someone on a level that implies a complete understanding of their essence.
E [US] – This is a hard one.
I think a lot of the things I believe in do have actual proof in scientific articles somewhere, should I choose to do actual research on them. But mostly I just go with my gut and trust the things that I see or feel. For example, I believe that yoga and exercise in general are great for calming the mind, getting more in touch with your emotions and body, and for lessening the symptoms of depression. But like, that’s a scientific fact.
I also believe that all humans are equal and that there are many things the government views as “quality of life” ideas that are actually just basic human rights (universal access to free / cheap healthcare and education, reliable access to housing and food, gov’t funded support for mental health and addiction, equality / equity / equal access changes that must be made to give everyone a fighting chance at a good life). I have firm convictions like that that no one will ever be able to change my mind on, but I suppose most of those have scientific evidence behind them to suggest that they are fact and not just my beliefs.
Here, I’ll give you one that’s really out there but that I firmly believe, despite being a woman of science– there is a gremlin that follows me wherever I live and steals non-essential items like socks and the cases for video games. Alternatively, it could just be my boyfriend.
K [Korea] – There is a certain sense of… unwavering faith I have in my friends. My friends are not infallible, and I have been disappointed by them in the past, but this faith is of a different kind. I believe there are certain immutable parts of our personalities that remain after they are formed.
Though my friends and I are constantly whipped by the wind and torn at by the tides of life, these characteristics can always be relied on and can be something as simple as how they react to hearing about certain bits of news, or how they will always have a way of telling you what you need to hear even when you don’t want to hear it.
Simply put, these traits are somewhat hard to identify if asked on the spot, but it’s the feeling you get when you’re having a rough day and you know just the person to call for this exact situation to commiserate with, or who to go to if you’re stressed and can give you level-headed direction. Our friends aren’t always physically in our lives anymore, and there are many we may not see again for many years, if not decades. Fate can be cruel and some we may never see again.
Some might protest “But Kyle, people go through tragic life events or epiphanies and those events can actually change the foundation within your friends that holds these things in place”. To that I would say: spot on. Entirely possible. But in our adult lives, when so few people’s opinions, values, and outlook can meaningfully be changed, such a change is so unlikely as to be a blessing if seen. That change might be hard to cope with, or it could be the recovery of someone you’ve been hoping to help for years, but that change in and of itself is something else to believe in as well: the belief that change can happen.
I suppose one more thing that I want back badly is to be able to go to concerts and performances again. I miss seeing concerts and idols I love, as well as I miss being able to be onstage performing improv comedy for audiences. I have my students back in the classroom so I get a little of that performance aspect but the mask aspect also is a bit suffocating when you are as animated in the classroom as I am. ㅋㅋㅋ