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Although I haven’t had as much time to read as I thought I would, I read “A return to love,” a book about the value of living your life with love, rather than fear, and embracing spirituality. Then, I also read Suki Kim’s “without you, there is no us,” about her teaching/undercover journaling in North Korea. They both resonated with me in different ways but I felt they were connected. “A return to love” focused on looking at the world through rose colored glasses and used slightly religious terminology in a spiritual way. The one on North Korea exemplified a life of a people living through fear and not at all through love.
I grew up going to church and my sisters and mom are still strongly religious, so the divinity terms were not foreign to me, but how the author approached them from a more secular view, was. I know my sisters both have good hearts and love deeply, but their recent difference of opinion and emotional distance from each other has made me question what exactly it is that we grew up being taught, as well as the effect of putting what you believe onto others. I feel that I took one very and probably most important thing from growing up going to church – the value of love. Jesus is a personification of love on earth and how we should act in the world. I do believe there is a higher power and there is more of a rhyme and reason to life than we realize. Everything has a way of working out for the best even if we do not immediately understand how. The author of a return to love, Marianne, uses the idea of the ego rather than the devil, as the ego is the selfish side to our human nature and often clouds our judgement. (I struggle with feeling selfish and doing what I need to do for myself while still wanting to give all that I can to the people I love in my life). She also talks about the Holy Spirit as the guidance system within us, given to us from that higher power, God, to help us have faith in what is greater. I can understand that because although I don’t go to church or read the bible, I pray all the time. I have faith that the world is ultimately good and we are all trying to go in the right direction. We struggle when we focus on the fear that it’s not.
I have a great deal of anxiety, whether it be at home or on the road, as my fingernails can attest, and it seems to me that anxiety issues are a more recently recognized phenomenon, that may in part stem from the heightened social awareness we have of ourselves through the media channels we use daily. Am I doing what’s best? Is this the right decision? Always comparing ourselves to others is so easy, even easier today than past generations experienced. It’s so easy to doubt myself and what I’m doing with my life. At least my sisters seem to be completely convinced that they are doing the right thing for themselves and the world as they see it, and I’m happy if they’re happy. I don’t want to be plagued constantly about whether I’m doing the right thing or not, but these worries creep into my psyche more than I care to admit. Thus, I reached a point where I embraced the confusion and let myself feel so lost that I decided to actually get lost, lost in Europe and onto a path that was as unplanned as I could help it. No, I don’t have a lot of money, or much direction, and as much as I tell myself that I’m doing this for my greater good, I don’t really know that for certain. I don’t know anyone doing anything like this at my age. I feel a little bit insane. People go to school and get jobs and find their person and that’s life, a great life. But, there are more ways than one to live a happy life. I’m exploring them. I don’t want to have cookie cutter life, obviously, but I can’t say that that stability doesn’t appeal to me, or that I never want to be settled.
I enjoyed Suki Kim’s book as much as it made me uncomfortable. I saw in her a likeness in the struggle to find her place, hers as a Korean American and as a writer. She cares deeply about her people and how things have gone awry for her country. She wants a happy home life too, and clings to the idea of a lover in New York as she lives and works in North Korea. Suki clung to the idea of her lover even when they couldn’t communicate at all. She was surrounded by an intensely dark environment based solely on fear, so it makes sense that she would hold onto any semblance of love.
It’s weird to me that I often find myself thinking about that certain boy I left at home when I’m off traveling. I should be enjoying the moment and embracing the life as I know it, and I feel that I am, but I can’t deny the pang of desire to be with that one person who intimately gets you. I tell myself I can be independent and love and learn about myself and the world and that’s enough, but it isn’t really that easy. The love I feel for my family and friends is incredibly strong, but it’s not the same as loving that one person and wanting a life with them. A life where everything is better and brighter because they’re in it, that’s being in love, right? Having that makes it easier to deal with the bullshit of the world?
I think also we are all a little confused about love, or maybe we all have different understandings of it, but in any form, I think it should be an overwhelming feeling that you can’t fully explain. That’s scary in itself, so we fear love rather than live it. Why are we so afraid? Because it hurts like a b if it doesn’t work out? I’m using this trip to face my fears and not be afraid of life and love. So far, I’ve really only been met with a lot of love. I haven’t fallen in love with any one person, but so many people.
So, these books were really good ways to explore these ideas. If we don’t live in love, what’s happening in North Korea could happen anywhere. I couldn’t help but think of the similarities of that environment to that of the Nazis. Suki went into that country with love and did what she could to expose the heartbreaking situation. She is really an example of living your life with love, even if it means not being in love with any ‘one’ person, and she wasn’t religious either.
So, I continue to go, and grow, in love, and try to figure out my place in the world, and do what I can to make it a better, more loving place. As my grandma recently told me after I lamented about not doing anything with my life, “you’ve made a lot of people happy.”