The Questions We Ask

I sat on top of the hill taking in every breath of fresh air I could. The train weaved itself against the mountain in the valley below, echoing its sound of approach. The river stretched out for miles. It breathed in and out from the surrounding hills, guiding its currents towards the sea. For a moment I was safe. Safe from the world of questions, filling in answers with reasons. I let the wind take my heart to the sea, as if it would somehow reach Fern somewhere in the Pacific.

Being in Oregon has brought on a mix of emotions. From goodbyes and hellos, to see you maybe soon. Everyone’s lives are moving at a fast pace, making the month feel short and long all at the same time. I find myself often answering more questions than I did even when I graduated university. The States has a culture of productivity. We are taught from a young age to always be preparing for the next stage of life. Whether that is getting ready for second grade when you’re in first grade, or preparing for retirement as soon as you’re out of high school. We find security in money, in things, and how much our dwelling is worth.

Yet, the more I travel, the more I see, and the more I don’t find security in the things I used to. I was raised in a culture that taught us to see money as our value. People size up one another up and compete for how busy they are. We have forgotten how to rest. We play to another’s exhaustion and perpetuate a cultural norm that perhaps is not the healthiest. There is no wrong or right way to live, but there are certain rhythms of life that we radiate into the world. And often that fast cadence comes through the form of questions.

I sat with a calm demeanor the other day at a stream of questions. What about grad school? What about visa? What about loans? How much do you make in your job? Is your relationship serious? What about….and the list goes on. While some ask to know, I find myself answering, playing into someone’s idea of success, or lack thereof.

I live a very different life, one that often confuses people. I don’t show up for a job, because I chose a different way of working. I chose something that worked with the rhythm of my life, and never settled for anything less. In all the questioning over the past couple of weeks, I realized something people are missing. They ask material questions, but not always about experience. We are taught to mark life in achievements, but I have learned that achievements do not always create a beautiful life.

The best moments I have experienced had nothing to do with a mark of achievement, or even a milestone in life. No, the best moments were felt in a feeling of surprise and wonderment. The best moments have been waking up every morning to my partner’s sweet smile and wondering what adventures will come. The best moments come when a laugh bellows from inside you at the most ridiculous of things, or when you see a stunning view for the very first time. The moments we often shove aside for the bigger picture are often the ones that shape our hearts to where and who we are meant to be.

In a culture that prides itself in material things and big achievements, I hope we pause. I hope we ask questions to see one another, and not ask to rate whether we have greater success. I have had to make many sacrifices in my life, and some are very excruciating to make. I continually shatter my own view for my future to see a better one. To see a different worldview. To see how I can make life a beautiful adventure.

I break through mirrors to face a world of reflective glass and endless possibilities. Our lives rarely turn out how we think. Sometimes we fall in love and it breaks our world into a thousand new possibilities. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices for our family to ensure we keep the relationships we hold most dear alive. Sometimes we have to make choices that will forever alter our life path. With continual uncertainty that we all live in, I hope we ask questions with compassion and tender care.

The questions we ask ourselves are important. The questions we ask others, should be with compassionate intention. In a culture of productivity and success, I hope we learn to shatter the small worlds we often confine ourselves to. Since I returned from Thailand, I have always felt split between understandings. After living in New Zealand, it has brought on a whole new perspective on cultural norms and understanding of how to go about living life.

The questions we ask have weight. They can poke at sore spots that force a person to scramble for an answer, feeling as if they have to match a cultural idea of success. The truth is, there is no certainty in this world. There is no guarantee. Which is why I choose to live differently.

We live in a world with a thousand possibilities. A million paths we could take. And a continual stream of choices that will diverge our life in new ways. Those choices will seek out our lives at every turn. Choices are what drive our lives into where we want them to be. Questions, choices, paths, are all a mix of what create our lives.

Yet, I hope hope we ask with understanding.

I hope we ask in love and not in judgement.

And I hope we ask with absolute abandon to our own idea of what someone else’s life should be.

Love and Light,

Bethany Jane

 

 

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