Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Facebook Fast

If you had told me soon after my college graduation that I would be working in marketing, I wouldn't have believed you. If you elaborated further and said that I'd be earning an income by handling social media accounts for a couple small businesses, I would've burst out laughing. Well, the joke's on me because that is what I have been doing for just a little over a year now. I won't do this forever -as long as I keep having dreams in other languages I won't- but it is good steady work for now. And being able to work at home, or wherever I'm at in the world, still has its perks.

2013 has been a good year. It's been challenging and it's coming to a close soon, but it's been good. I was able to go back to Spain for a long visit, see several friends, "run into" and do some sightseeing with my brother and have many other exciting adventures along the way. I've spent time with friends here too and attended a wedding of a good friend a couple months ago. I'm eagerly awaiting my cousin's wedding this fall which will bring one whole side of my family together.

Back on the home front (Jacksonville), though, I've been a bit lonely and unhappy. I chalk some of those feelings up to turning 25 at the end of this year. If you've talked to me lately, you might have heard me mention that I'm having sort of a "quarter life crisis." John Mayer coined the phrase a few years ago and it has seemed to stick with my generation. It's not that I don't know who I am or what I want, it's just that I don't know how to get to where I want to be - or rather I lack the resources to do so. Several months before my big trip to Europe, I had this passing thought one day: "Well, now the goal is to get out of Jacksonville." It stopped me for a moment because that is almost the same thought and plan I had many years ago when I realized I had to get out of Ohio (my home state). I didn't know if I was going to be able to achieve that goal but my hope was stronger than my doubt. Now, I am filled with that same hopefulness, years later. Only time will tell when I can move onto the next chapter of my life -wherever that may be.

Not too long ago I decided to go off of Facebook for a month. I still haven't shared a good portion of my pictures from my trip nor have I written about many of the new cities I traveled to or the people I met along the way. It wasn't that my trip changed me in a negative way. It made me stressed out at times but overall I was joyful there. I had some fun experiences and made wonderful memories with old (and new) friends. However, I came to Spain discontent about the situation at home and was hoping being in Spain again would change things. Help me figure out how to become content again. The only way to truly change how I felt was to change my thinking. And when that failed, give it up to God.

Well, as I was doing my best to do the latter, I still struggled with those feelings. I realized one of my problems was now this fancy iPhone I got just before my trip. I had the world at my fingertips. I could read, watch or listen to anything I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. I had never experienced that before. I could also see whatever my friends around the world were doing at any given moment with just the touch of my finger. Now, let me just say that none of those things are bad. It's great that the world is much smaller and more connected than it ever has been. It's great that families and friends can stay in touch all over the world. What can be bad (or detrimental) to your health and well being is that you become addicted to things like social networks and smartphones. I've already developed a dependency on social media -which I'm not exactly proud of- but I didn't want to become addicted to my iPhone. Most importantly, I didn't want to become addicted to checking Facebook first thing while I was still lying in my bed. Too ambitious maybe?

Well, here are the three things that I wanted to accomplish by staying off Facebook:

1) Break my habit of checking the site multiple times per day.
2) Form good habits with my smartphone
3) Get back in touch with and be more engaged with my real life (IE: regularly exercise and enjoy the outdoors, finally get around to studying Portuguese and spending more quality time with friends)

You might be thinking: "Hold on just a second! I thought you said you manage social media pages like *ahem* Facebook?"

Okay, so... admit that it wasn't a complete and total Facebook fast. I've still been on the website everyday...for business. I've seen my own profile page a few times when switching between the pages but I haven't seen the news feed and what you all have been up to in about a month. In fact, I don't know what many of my friends have done with their summers. Is it my fault? Well, the short answer is yes.

I ended up fasting food almost the entire day today (Saturday). I know that this may seem like it coincides perfectly with my other fast but I didn't plan on doing it. In fact, I've never really done an honest to goodness fast in my life. I've done the Daniel fast before but at least with that type of fasting you can still eat throughout the day, though there are diet restrictions. Anyway, because I fasted today, I was much more aware of the time and I was more focused than I have been in a long while. I can't say that I accomplished a whole lot today but I had a much needed time of reflection.

This nearly month long of Facebook fasting has been good for me. I went into it with misguided intentions but have come out learning a couple of good lessons. One thing in particular was, that I've known for a little while, is that I've been very selfish. Due to a couple of situations this summer, I realized that I've grown a bit obsessed with thinking about myself. My work. My time. My actions. My clothes. My looks. What I do right during the day. What I do wrong. Or what I simply don't get done during any given day, week or month. How much money I make. How much money I'd like to make. Where I live. Where I'd like to move to. How much I miss home but can't go back often enough. It's always about ME. From the moment I wake up to the second I fall asleep. Sure, I think about and interact with other people throughout the day but I don't do it often enough. Not as much as I should.

Secondly, I need to always reach out to my closest friends and stay in touch. To make plans to chat or catch up in person. I have hardly done that all summer. I've spent most of my time working and recovering from all that work in my down time. I had a good conversation with my mom about this the other week. I told her how tired I was (of a lot of things) of always being the one to initiate contact with someone. How the people who stay in the best touch with me are hundreds of miles away. How no one around here makes plans with or thinks of me first. (See where I'm going with this? It ties into the first thing I mentioned) I asked if she ever got tired of being the one to make plans with her friends growing up and if she ever stopped being the initiator. She said yes but she continued to be the one who got everyone together. To make plans to hang out or go take a weekend trip. She said that if she didn't, nothing would happen. And on top of that, she would feel lonely.

That's how I have felt these past few weeks. Sure, I've had some time to myself to do the things I'm interested in and learn a new language but if I can't spend time with other people while I'm living in this city, then what's the point of living here? For some strange reason I thought people would want to talk to me more and make plans to do stuff this summer in person since I got off Facebook. It's a great tool to use to stay in touch but it can also ruin friendships. I'm not saying that my fasting has ruined any of my friendships but it has sort of stunned the growth of some. I take full blame. It's not easy to admit that but I feel a lot better doing so. The truth is, I need people. I like helping people. I like talking to people. I love making people laugh. I am fine spending time by myself but God does not want us to be alone all of the time. He built us to desire companionship -both in platonic and romantic ways.

As this fast comes to a close, I can definitely say that I've learned more than I thought I would. I knew that I had been selfish at times in the past few months but I didn't realize that it had gotten this bad. I will re-join the Facebook world in just a couple of days but I won't look at it the same way I did before. I hope to continue to work on my pride issue and do my best to get it under control.

I'll still be working through the constant struggle between my fervent desire to live abroad and my current financial situation. That's not going to go away any time soon. For now, I will do my best to be content with God's timing. I may make my own plans but ultimately His plans will prevail.

Have you ever taken a break from technology or a social network? How long was your break and what did you learn?

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Taking Language to the Next Level!

Having lived in Northeast Florida for the past few years, I've seen that the Hispanic community has been ever increasing here. Spanish is at least seen or recognized everywhere across the county. It is quickly becoming the most popular foreign language to learn across the US. Spanish is at least seen or recognized everywhere across the county. I also know that negative experiences with the language (or with those who teach it) are the number one reason why people choose not to learn. However, from a purely financial perspective, there is a lot of money to be made for those who speak English and Spanish regardless of the field. From a linguistic standpoint, Spanish is one of the most beautiful Romance languages. Each country has their own unique phrases and accents. It can be overwhelming at first to learn the vocabulary or how to speak it, but once you can get a handle on it, it starts to become easier. You have to remember to keep practicing and using what you learn, though!

If you haven't already known, I chose to study Spanish in high school for a number of reasons. I had exposure to it as a child and already recognized a few words when it was introduced to me in middle school. I took some French in middle school as well but I wasn't all that interested in it. It seemed like a confining and stiff language to me. Spanish truly seemed like a living, vibrant language. I grew up listening to some Caribbean and Latin artists and the music was always so upbeat and energetic. I also thought my future field trips in Spanish class would mean that we might go eat at a Hispanic restaurant!! I mean who could pass up Mexican food especially when the school paid for it sometimes? haha Well, Spanish was my first experience with learning a language but it was just the beginning of my linguistic journey.

I took 4 years in HS and 4.5 years in college. I've been to Mexico and I've studied in Spain. I've taken the language beyond the classroom and used it to live my life. To grow and change. To talk and get to know people I wouldn't have met otherwise had I not known how to speak their language. I think when you reach that point in your learning, you begin to see that it's not just about memorizing the words on a page or the lyrics to a song. It's about learning a new way to live your life. How to see things from another person's perspective. To challenge yourself and see what you're made of.



I'm not quite finished with the Spanish language just yet (and I never will be to be honest) but I'll let you in a little secret: I want to know and speak 5 languages fluently in my lifetime. I've been tinkering around with Portuguese for the past couple of years but now I want to get serious and starting studying the grammar and leaning vocabulary. Eventually, I will either find a conversation partner here or take another trip back to Portugal or venture down to Brasil. Whichever way I decide to begin practicing it, I will be incorporating it into my life. I haven't officially decided on my 5th language but I know what I want my 4th one to be: Arabic. Ever since I went to Morocco three years ago, I have been a bit obsessed with the culture and its language. Even spending time in both Southwestern and Southeastern Spain where there is a heavy Arab influence has only made me more curious about the language. I'm not certain how I can incorporate Arabic into my life and future goals but I still want to learn it! 

For my 5th language I'm considering learning Japanese or German - because these two languages are so similar to one another, right? ;-) I hope my friend Anita is reading this because she has a little something to do with my interest in German. I learned a little bit of Japanese when I was younger and have always been fascinated with their culture as well. I may add one, both or none of these two languages to my repertoire. I don't know at this point!

What I do know is that I will never stop learning, exploring and gaining new experiences through languages, whether I speak them or not! Life is too short to put limits on anything -especially learning. :-)