Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Trusting Trust

I sat on the back deck of a ship for some quiet time. It was a foggy day so I couldn’t see much of the great liquid beyond, but the fresh air and lull of the ocean captivated me. I couldn’t see where we’d just come from nor where we were headed, but I didn’t feel anxious or nervous. I felt relaxed. I felt calm. I felt free. I felt relaxed, calm, and free because of trust. I trusted that the captain and crew steering this ship had the ability to do what I couldn't. I trusted their know-how and skill. I trusted their ability to keep me safe and I will continue to trust them for the next 100 days.
Trust is a major issue for most. Problems with trust is typically due to history. When trust is betrayed we are no longer willing to be vulnerable again. I’ve sailed on ships before and my past experiences have been positive. All have resulted in me arriving safely to my destination. That makes it easy for me to trust that this voyage will have the same result. Similarly, we base our expectations on what has happened to us previously. If someone we were vulnerable with was dishonest or disloyal, we develop a fear of vulnerability. If someone we opened up to proved undeserving then we may conclude that being open is what led to the hurt.
All of us have been let down by someone we loved. However, it is not wise to live a life constantly guarded and closed. I was extremely good at allowing others to get close to me without giving myself the liberty to do the same. I would often leave the company of others feeling alone and burdened. The freedom that comes from opening up to others was lost on me because I refused. While I wouldn’t let anyone hurt me, I was also preventing anyone from helping me. While I wouldn’t let anyone get too close, I was also preventing myself from feeling connected. All of the risk that I shielded myself from was also blocking the benefits associated with having relationships. It is impossible to experience authentic love and friendship without trusting.

If you find it unusually difficult to trust, consider what you are missing out on by being so calculating with your emotions. Be careful, not fearful. Be selective, not overcritical. Don't miss out on the precious gift of friendship because you are too afraid to trust.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Try-Umph Travels: Montréal

On Sunday, August 21, I boarded a plane to Boston, Massachusetts in order to move into my new home for the next four months. My new home boasts of ever-changing amazing views, is extremely mobile, and is 590 feet long! I moved into the MV Explorer as I am joining Semester At Sea for the Fall 2011 voyage as the Alumni & Development Coordinator. This awesome job opportunity will take me and approximately 700 others on a journey around the world.
Since Sunday, I have met and gotten to know my fellow faculty and staff members as we sailed from Boston to Montréal, Canada. Our ship, the MV Explorer, docked in Old Town Montréal, a picturesque port the blends green park space with an industrial backdrop. When I think of the brief time I spent in Montréal images of the cobblestone streets and adorable dessert shops flash into my mind. A portion of Old Town’s cobblestone streets are reserved for pedestrian traffic and this provided a great way to experience the culture. The shops and restaurants that lined the streets were as varied as the people. I ventured into Les Glaceurs for cupcakes and ice cream. Yes, I bought both. I had vanilla framboise (raspberry) ice cream immediately and saved my red velvet cupcake and my caramel cupcake for later. All wise choices.
I returned to the MV Explorer for a meeting and a reception for the family members of students sailing on this voyage. I would like to share an experience during the reception that may help you understand the significance that Semester At Sea has had on my life. I was preparing to take a group on a tour of the ship and I overheard someone say that she sailed two years prior and that her younger sister was now sailing. This young lady looked around and immediately started to tear up. I smiled as I witnessed the visible emotion on her face because I understood it. This experience is about traveling the world, but it is so much more than that. It is a transformative one, one that remains many years after walking off the gangway at the conclusion of each voyage. It is why I have remained connected and will continue to stay in touch with Semester At Sea. My life has forever changed course since I initially boarded in February 1999.
Following the reception, a small group of us ventured back out into Montréal for dinner. We started at a restaurant where two musicians were performing directly across from where were seated which added to the atmosphere. Following dinner, or what ended up being our first course, we discussed wanting to try a couple of Montréal specialties. We’d seen images of poutine, french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds, and saw advertisements for smoked meat. We found a restaurant with both poutine and smoken meat. It was a storefront, but as we continued to the seating area, we were outside again, in the rear of the building. I opted for the smoked meat pizza. I enjoyed it. Those who tried the poutine enjoyed that as well.
The next morning the students boarded the ship. There was nervous and excited energy everywhere. It was great to see the anticipation on the faces of so many. Having been in their shoes, I could identify with the myriad of emotions they were experiencing. It wasn’t until the ship’s engines started that familiar rumble–symbolizing that we were getting ready to set sail–that I realized I am also a part of this experience. While I am not sailing as a student, I am sailing and this journey around the world will have an impact on me. I put down the paperwork I’d been going over and headed outside to the deck. I wanted to be outside as we pulled away from the dock. I wanted to be outside as the students realized that the moment had arrived. I wanted to be outside with my community as I realized that the moment had arrived when this voyage, the one I’d been preparing for was here, was now. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Embrace Impossibility

Two years ago I sat with a professor as he shared an incredible opportunity. As I listened, I considered enrolling in a PhD program so I could do the same. He told our dinner party that he was taking a semester away from his home campus to teach while traveling around the world. I told him several times, “I would love to do that.” I said it when he mentioned it. I said it when he shared the list of countries he would be visiting. I said it again at the end of the night.
As much as I was fascinated by his upcoming adventure, I knew I wasn’t in a position remotely close to his. I wasn’t a professor and had no desire to become one. My job wouldn’t allow me to travel the world, no matter how convincing I could be in drafting a proposal. However, as I write this blog, I can say that I learned a valuable lesson about embracing impossibility.
Some of you know that I am currently on a ship preparing to spend the next 100+ days sailing around the world, and yes, it is for a job. I didn’t have to start a PhD program. I didn’t have to switch careers. I was presented with the job of my dreams right where I was.

What we think is impossible or out of our range often isn’t. The key is having some faith and ensuring that all of our actions are true to our heart’s desires. It’s not enough to simply wish, we also have to work. It’s not enough to talk about your future, you also have to act toward that future. Your dreams were put in your spirit for the purpose of realization, not to taunt you. You have dreams so you can chase them, not be frustrated by them. What are you doing in your day-to-day activities to ensure that your dreams will be realized? What have you done in the last six months to get you closer to your goals? Embrace impossibility instead of running from it. Life is full of opportunities, but the great, seemingly impossible ones are for those who are brave, hard-working, and determined enough to embrace them.
You may be thinking that I am doing something very similar to what I’d heard. Admittedly, that would be a pretty good story. However, it gets better. Just two days ago, on Sunday afternoon, I sat in a room for the faculty and staff orientation. A huge smile spread across my face when the very professor I’d had dinner with nearly two years ago stood up and introduced himself. I’m not doing something similar. I am on the exact trip that I was so intrigued by nearly two years ago! Embrace what you consider to be impossible. Even if you can’t see how or when, what you deem to be impossible could very well be in your future.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Quotes and Clichés

I am a fan of inspiring quotes. I enjoy discovering new ways to encourage myself. Quotes are great when they serve their purpose of inspiring positive thinking or positive action, but be careful not to disguise a cliché as a source of encouragement.

What one person considers encouraging may be considered mediocre to someone else. The key is to determine what uplifts or benefits you. What quotes or mantras do you find yourself repeating? Do any of them create action or empowerment within you? Do you find yourself simply repeating quotes that your favorite teacher or the most positive person you know says? Inspiration is personal. Inspiration is tied to internal desires, goals, and personality traits. What one person finds uplifting may simply get a shrug from another. This doesn't indicate simplicity or complication. It merely suggests that we are motivated on a personal level, not a collective one.

Quotes I often hear people say don't motivate me. It doesn't mean they are not inspiring to the people who say them. All it means is that I am not motivated to think or act differently when I hear those particular quotes. This doesn't mean I am without recourse. It is my responsibility to discover my own source of motivation. It is my responsibility to seek out inspiration that truly moves me. Consider the things you say to yourself most often. Are they habitual sayings of no substance? Do you say them to excuse your responsibility? Are you excusing bad behavior or inaction? If your encouraging quotes mirror clichés and have stopped eliciting a response from you maybe it's time for you to find new quotes that are more in line with who you are becoming and how you wish to grow.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Live Your Life

Lately, many of my conversations have centered on my decision to accept a temporary position with Semester At Sea. While most have expressed nothing but excitement, a few have focused on the risk involved with packing up my life, throwing caution to the wind, and walking away from normalcy for four months. A few have heard the news and immediately directed their attention on the uncertainty. Some saw the unknown as something to be feared. I noticed the contrast between how they perceived my situation and how I perceived it, yet I didn’t feel the need to persuade them. It isn’t my responsibility to defend my life; it’s my responsibility to fully live my life.

Everyone will not understand all of your choices. There will be times when you have to exercise faith in your abilities and make decisions based on your judgment. You may make choices that do not line up with the expectations of parents, family members, and friends. Sometimes you’ll even make choices that extend beyond the expectations you had for yourself. Expectations are helpful when they hold us accountable and prevent us from settling, but they are detrimental when they limit our perception and obstruct our view of a larger future. You are not required to defend your life. You are required to fully live it. Those who looked at my future and saw a road to risk and uncertainty were viewing my life through their lenses of fear, intimidation, and confinement. I don’t have to accept or play hostess to the fears and doubts of others and neither do you. Live your life well. That is the best and only defense you need to provide.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Transparency is something I feared before I fully understood it. I knew that it required a level of openness and honesty that made me uncomfortable so I wasn’t interested. I was content being ultra-selective with who would experience transparent Myla, what I would be transparent about, and when. While we need to exercise wisdom when it comes to sharing our emotions with others, it is possible to take caution too far and miss out the benefits that come with being free from the fear of opening up.

I consider myself friendly and open to new friendships, but I have simultaneously been guarded. It is easy for me to build a level of trust where others feel they can share, but much harder for me to return the favor. There was a time in my life when I would put people through a test to see how they would react to hearing a safer revelation before I felt comfortable sharing the one(s) that really needed to be released. Truthfully, I was seeing how their reaction made me feel about myself. If they provided a reaction that was too similar to my own negative self talk then I could go no further in sharing with them. The problem with this emotional testing is that I was not allowing myself the relief that accompanies placing my trust in someone nor the liberation that comes from freeing self from unhealthy feelings.

I’m not suggesting that you tell everyone everything, but if you have people in your life who are trustworthy then trust them. Don’t test them. Don’t create a safe space for them to open up while you remain emotionally clogged. When you live a life of transparency you live a life of peace and sincerity. Those who cannot exist in a similar space of peace and sincerity will eventually bow out. Those that remain and embrace the more genuine you are the keepers. Don’t be afraid of freedom. Embrace it.