Wednesday, January 29, 2014

On Internationalism

Lately, I've been deeply reflecting on how my life has radically changed over the past 8 months living in Europe.  I'm absolutely speechless at all the beauty that God has blessed me to live through. I'd especially like to elaborate on the issue of internationalism.  I can't even begin to STRESS HOW IMPORTANT this is. If you EVER have the chance to travel to another country and experience a different culture don't even question it JUST GO. I REPEAT JUST GO. From my personal experience, those moments of the life have been the greatest times I've ever gone through.  Tonight, as I was chatting with one of my dear friends, we started comparing the countries that we have had the chance to live through throughout our lives and how that really changed us. We consider ourselves to be the ones who see through TWO lenses instead of one. I think the "two lens" perspective is crucial and absolutely necessary in today's society. I feel so blessed to have grown up in a two culture world. Lithuanian and American. I simply want to be honest with you. The whole saying "The grass is greener on the other side"......isn't true. Each culture has it's advantages and disadvantages. It's like a  delicious disease that spreads in one aspect. (poetical metaphor intended) It seems to me that Europeans have this vision of the "American Dream" while Americans have this vision of the "European Dream" or something of the equivalent in another country. Just like people who have straight hair want curly hair and people who have curly hair want straight hair. From my observations of simply living life with people from many cultures all over the world, we're all the same when it comes to this. Curiosity is natural human instinct. It's the worm inside our stomachs that's eating us alive, the fire that's raging within us that until we quench it or "kill the curiosity"  and "make it to the other "greener" side, that burning desire will always seemingly be inside our hearts and souls. So to put it plainly...GO KILL YOUR CURIOSITY. LIVE IN THE CULTURE THAT IS ON YOUR HEART.

The transformations in my life are clearly evident and some are still developing. I'm definitely not the same person I was a year ago. Some things always stay the same, but others change. Living in Lithuania, I've learned to be a more forgiving person. For example,some people I used to be really mad at  in the United States, seeing the other side, I'm reminded that we are all human and that there are clearly cultural boundaries that make us who we are and act a certain way. I mean let's really think about this concept: People are who they are for a reason. It's not by accident. The culture and experiences of their lives has made them who they are today. The results of that is definitely a wide spectrum, but it either can leave one NARROW minded or OPEN minded.

People who choose not to open their hearts to another culture, are truly missing out on life.

It breaks my heart to see someone who is so consumed by THEIR culture that they forget how BIG the world truly is and how SMALL in reality they actually are. One observation I've noticed in Europe is how overly nationalistic society sometimes seems. You must hold on to your identity as if you were faced with your head at the guillotine, you'd rather have your head chopped off than disown your national identity. I suppose that's one major difference between Europe and the United States. Sometimes I admire this aspect of that culture, but other times it sickens me, because with over nationalism comes PRIDE. People become so PROUD about their culture that they are not accepting to "Outsiders". I can't even begin to tell you how many times I've been offended by people and even wanted to punch them in the face because I have the 2 lens perspective and they only have 1. Judgements at times can be overwhelming and break the heart and shatter and scar the soul, but this opens the door of opportunity to pray for them, that their eyes would be opened to a new perspective that could forever change their life.  I am who God says I am and I am NOT defined by what a person says I am. Call me a Lithuanian, an American, a Russian, a crazy over colorful whatever, those labels sometime really cut deep, and people have no idea. They assume you're one way, and out of deep respect etiquette you choose to be silent and forgive them, because they do not know the words they say and how that affects someone.  I'm by no means perfect, but I do my best to choose my words carefully on the issues of nationalism especially, because from having to balance 2 cultures from the day I was born, I know how deep those words can cut through the heart like a double edged knife. It's painful.

So now.....

I see through the lens of forgiveness,
the lens of offering grace to others when they least deserve it,
the lens of loving others for who God created them to be and not judging them,
the lens of realizing that culture and experience shape a person into who they are,
the lens of analyzing a situation from a global perspective,
the lens of embracing who you are even when others around you are different from you,
the lens of believing in your dreams, even though they may seem impossible, at the end of the day, it's the only thing that will keep your soul alive.

So my dearest friend, TRAVEL. Hop on that plane TOMORROW. and don't look back.....and I pray that you enjoy the greatest cultural adventure of your life!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Dedication to the Misunderstood

As 2014 comes to an open,  I'd like to address the following issue that has been on my heart lately.

Lithuanian-American. Russian-American. Estonian-American. Latvian-American. Czech Republic-American.Ukrainian-American.Moldovan-American. Polish-American. Finnish-American. Norwegian-American. Macedonian-American. Serbian-American. Croatian-American. Bosian-American. Montenegron-American. Austrian-American. German-American. Hmong-American. African-American. Chinese-American. Hispanic-American. You get my point.

I got this idea to write this reflection as I was standing at a cold bus stop in Kaunas at 5 in the morning after my travels to Warsaw for New Years. Funny how the most inspirational writing ideas of my life, come to me at the strangest hours and queerest circumstances. I started thinking about how I, and many others who bear the titile of "insert your nationality" SLASH "American" title. I would like to be a VOICE for this genre of people, because I feel like we have been misunderstood by society. I desire to SPEAK UP  and STAND UP for who we are.

That is a great question to ask.
We are the ones who others consider not to be American,
yet they consider us to not exactly be European or Asian or whatever.
We are somewhere in between.
Sometimes "they" ask us to show our passports because "they" don't believe who we are. and when we make the frikin stupid mistake of showing "them" our passport "they" judge us.
Seriously, just because you OWN a frikin Bible does NOT make you a  frikin Christian,
same as the frikin Nationality in your  frikin passport DOES NOT make you who you are..........
We are a new genre of people in today's society that are result of our countries unsettled histories wither it be communism or something else.
We are every post-communist parent's dream.....(in some cases I'd like to think at least)
We are the result of the scars of communism's past intertwined with the American dream.
We live in two worlds instead of one.
We see two sides of the story instead of one.
We are judged like frikin HELL for not knowing "certain languages that we should have known by now".
We have realized that the grass is NOT necessarily greener on the other side as most of the Non-American world has fallen into the trap of thinking. (Yes, controversial thought, I know, but let's be honest, the American Dream in my opinion is a LIE, don't waste your life....if you'd like to chat about this, I would LOVE to share my perspective with you. )
We are unique, beautiful, original and creative individuals with passions, and visions and dreams that scream from the depths of our souls.

I feel like my whole life I have been misunderstood because of this national identity crisis. I have lived a unique perspective of life, that most people will never get the chance to experience. It has been my greatest blessing and my greatest curse at the same time.  I am forever thankful for it, but it haunts my soul of what could have been. And my soul wonders if the what could have been part would have been the greatest unknown nightmare.  I don't believe in coincidences or accidents, only Divine appointments. God places everyone in each part of the world for a reason. Wither you be straight up Polish, African, Asian, 3 nationalities in one or a post communist dreamer as I, the culture God placed you in was not by accident. Let me repeat, The culture that God placed you in my dearest friend WAS NOT BY ACCIDENT. There is only pure purpose behind it. It may not make sense to you or I as to why we had to grow up and live through what we did, but in God's eyes it makes perfect sense. He sees the entire picture of our lives when we merely see a small colorful snapshot of it.

So with this unique perspective of life, what I have chosen to do? For example, today I walked to the grocery store wearing a red black yelllow green floral scarf headband with a red rose, bright red fire and ice lipstick, a teal blue scarf, and wine red leggings, and black lace up leather boots that go up to my knees. Living in a country where wearing color seems to be a social taboo, I decided not to give a SHIT as to what people in society think anymore. Whenever I visit Poland, for some beautiful reason it ALWAYS brings out my inner artistic side...and oh how I have longed to see that colorful side. 
I've learned that I just need to EMBRACE to the FULLEST at who God has created me to be, and if society doesn't like it, to bloody HELL with what they think.  Why be the same  when you can be your original self? Why conform when you have a once in a life time chance to stand out? So this is my declaration and final stand to those who feel misunderstood, especially us "insert nationality" "American"........ It's time for us to come out of our shells, and show the world who we truly are, let the beautiful sunshine and echoing laughter SCREAM like a long lost heart melody in their faces........