Sunday, 29 August 2010

Grateful for Gratitude

I think it’s impossible to not miss the cruise ship life, even if it’s just a little. It doesn’t just sound cool to be travelling from city to city everyday for 6 months getting to see half the world, it actually is exciting. Well, there is a point where it just feels like everyday life, but it’s still easy to get excited about walking along Cococabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, the steep alleyways in Vigo, through the historic streets of Gamla Stan in Stockholm, or down Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg. Every port that you haven’t been to before was like a new present at Christmas time!

And it’s hard not to miss the people (mostly the crew, but some passengers as well), even with the corresponding negativity that comes from being around them. I just found the environment so infectiously pessimistic, that before I knew it, I was a key part in the depressing side of my own adventure, completely unable to just be grateful; all those years of people telling me I had such a positive energy thrown away in a matter of months. The hardest part in the end was dealing with how disappointed I was in myself for not being stronger and for having been naïve enough to believe that optimism is something which requires no effort to maintain.

I see why everyone says it is addictive - you cannot help but want to go back and try again. Hindsight leaves me wondering if knowing what to expect will better prepare me for the internal challenge of fighting negative ship life. But then, I just imagine myself having to dress up for 70’s night one more time and it makes me want to hurl a little. Sometimes I think sitting through another 2 hour session of ceramics might make me tear my hair out. And if I have to teach one more person how to use an elevator, or explain that the stairwell goes up AND down, I may strangle someone.
In conclusion, being back in Canada (where people really ARE nicer; it’s not just a humourous myth) has made it easier to view the entire experience as a positive one, and as always, reflect on the difficult parts to find life lessons in them – and most prominently this time: Gratitude does take effort.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

The Non- Plan: Phase 1

I’m flattered by the number of people who have been telling me how much they miss reading my blogs and asking why I’ve stopped writing. I think most would excuse it to lack of time or just plain indolence, but the truth for me is that I just haven’t felt so inclined. I’ve really been enjoying life and the single precious seconds within it – or at least, attempting to.

Right now life feels… enjoyable… and satisfying… and really exciting. I feel very present in every moment.

I’m doing the opposite of what my high school guidance counselor advised and attempting to make as few plans and timelines for my life as possible. 

I want to live simply and, still, in the most fulfilling and giving way feasible.

I will continue to try and act as selflessly as possible, while being true to who I am.

I know very little of what my life will look like in years to come, and personally, I’m fighting hard to keep that view of the future a clean slate.

I have ideas, as I always have.
I imagine I’ll attend med school at some point in time.
Marriage and children will come up eventually.

Here is what I’ve learned about how I enjoy my life: Planning… makes me miserable. 

All I know right now is I want to be here, in Canada to take care of my Mom, and on September 16th, I’m hopping on a plane to England to join the love of my life where we will ride ponies and go for walks and enjoy whatever shape this part of our life together will take. 

That sounds like a pretty good… err… um, non-plan (???)… to me!

Friday, 7 May 2010

Park Life

It’s been a long time since I’ve found myself soul-searching on the topic of my self-confidence. For some time now I’ve ignored any criticism or suggestions that it might not be at the high level I’ve come to believe it to be – mostly because I just didn’t care. Since my journey in Africa, the satisfaction that came from accepting a human inability to ever really be 100% secure in themselves and their abilities (at least with any form of sincerity) left me uninterested in dividing and conquering any issues that played games with my self-worth and efficacy.

Ship life has tweaked that perspective.

Due to my easily influenced nature, this world around me has left me fighting with myself while completely unaware of any internal battle – until today, that is. Sitting in a café on some random, unidentified alleyway in Vigo, with a latte and a cold breeze, removed from the consistency of crew life and ship culture, I saw my fear. More so, objectified it.  I’m still fighting that pressure to be perfect, that pressure to be something I’m not. That same pressure I thought I’d thrown away over a year ago when I was sitting roadside waiting for a tro-tro in Ghana. I suppose it snuck up on me in this intensified version of the world and hyped up North American tourism. Social fear, hasn’t haunted me since high school, has become such a fluid part of my day that I wasn’t even aware it was there (let alone aware of the brakes it had on my self-confidence). 

So, once more, I’m letting it all go. Saying good bye to the eagerness of perfection, the influence of societies “rights and wrongs” and sayonara to the doubts that who I am might not be good enough for this world.

This job is providing unexpected challenges, and don’t think for a moment I’m not grateful for them. It’s an experience I imagined and yet one I could not have even dreamt.  I want to write more about the sights, sounds and smells that conglomerate to form the life I’m living and attempt to make the experience relatable, but honestly, I’m just not all that interested in recording it while I’m living it. Maybe when I’m through this section of the journey I’ll feel more inclined to map it out with words.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Baptism by Fire

I feel the captain put it best during our brief conversation in the conservatory the other morning: I’ve been “baptised with fire.”
Adjusting to a new job is understandably overwhelming on occasion; adapting to a whole new set of friends and lifestyle simultaneously creates more reasons for stress; porting in country that just had the fifth strongest earthquake in the world is more than just a little drama.
I wish I could describe to you in better articulation what the chaotic scenario on the ship was, but I’ll give you the general details and you can imagine the tune yourself.
Essentially, we were information-less for quite a long time. Passengers were questioning if there was even going to be a pier for us to port in when arriving in Valparaiso. The day after the earthquake, we learned of the airports 72 hour closure. This is slightly more than inconvenient as we were expected to have a nearly 2600 passenger turn-around in that port. (Questions one might ask are: How are the old passengers supposed to leave the country? How are the new one’s supposed to get into the country? If Santiago is still having aftershocks, can we expect more tsunamis? After the airport reopens, how long will it take for people to get a flight out?)
The situation ended with us porting in Valparaiso for an extended 2 days, leaving over half our previous cruise passengers to fend for themselves in Chile, and taking some of them along with us back to Buenos Aires to catch a flight out of there, and then embarking less than a quarter of our new passengers. Not to make the situation any stickier, but computer glitches and inability to stay along the pier (or even tender into it) for the two days in Valparaiso left us asking for far too much patience from our passengers. This easily equated to a rapid disaster of complaints, cynicism and a thoroughfare of negative energy that even had me swallowing cuss words. Nasty. Just Nasty.
Of course, now in the calm of the storm, we have a half full ship and a ton of sea days to be bored with (we had to cut out ports days to make it to our next turn-around city on time making up for our extended stay in Chile), and I developed a lovely, optimistic hindsight that will carry with me for the next 6 months: “Happiness is suffering backwards.” That’s a quote from a book my friend Mary told me about. The correlation is nothing more than the fact that everything after these first few cruises is going to look like “smooth sailing” (so tacky, I know.)
As a miniature update from last post, I’ve learned passengers and those with shorter contracts will keep me sane. Their ability to see beyond what is going on at sea makes it easier to stay grounded and aware of how easily one can get sucked into the surreal life aboard. My thirst for conversations from those of the outside world grows daily… if internet was faster and less patience tasking I would reunite with my roots from University as a Facebook addict. Alas, no complaints – I still can’t imagine anywhere else in the world I’d rather be right now than on this ship, meeting amazing people from all over the world and expanding my outlook.
I’m so grateful for my life (… and the continuous reminders.)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Sur"real" Adventures

This world feels nothing close to real. That’s my ultimate conclusion after one full cruise on the ship. Granted, this one was nothing similar to other cruises, but all the same, the ship life is… superficial.
If life were analogized to being a blot of paint spread so thin that it was hard to decipher its original colour, ship life would be that blot of paint before it’s spread. Everything social and personal is more intense and inflated than the “real” world. It’s so easy (for me at least) to pin point all these contrived social habits and societal issues aboard than it is back home. It’s essentially, life, but more dense. The same mass, but in a smaller package.
For example, beyond the fact that it’s such a diverse international culture on the ship that we must mingle with, crew can be whoever they want to be. You can say whatever you want about yourself. Pretend you are whoever you want to be. No one is the wiser. It’s a shame these people don’t realize how blatantly their insecurities are being portrayed through their behaviours.
Add that to that the lack of commitment to the job and relationships, and we are left with simply acquaintances. Very little ties us together except for the lifestyle we’ve chosen, and even that takes many paths.  You spend a lot of time with the people around you for a short period. It’s hard to build trust in those premises sometimes – especially when it’s so … surreal.
While the lack of genuine culture leaves me feeling less than satisfied with one-on-one interactions, it is providing me with a new outlet in learning to take life a lot less seriously. It’s pointless to over think what’s going on around you when it’s obvious it’s all for show – for image. And I have met a few individuals who I’m fortunate enough to bond very well with… too bad their contracts end next week.
My life has become a strange mix of high school, a college frat house, and a reality TV show similar to Big Brother (complete with major natural disasters and weekly safety drills).
The amount of excitement I’ve packed in during the last 14 days would easily suffice the average North American individual for a whole year. Getting caught in earthquakes, tsunamis, and chaotic disembarks with no boarding passengers due to airports turning to rubble, plus the simpler drama of boys and men (more so boys who think they are men), and the added learning curve of a new job in the entertainment industry, leaves one feeling… exhausted.
Time for a good night’s sleep – after I finish prepping my games for the passengers tomorrow.
As Erika pointed out – “how crazy is [my] life?!”

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Choices and Sacrifices

I’ve been wrestling for months trying to find a way to articulate these revolving thoughts, but I’m tired of trying to pin them down. I’m presenting them as unfinished business, as open dialogue. Maybe, through another’s insight, I’ll be able to conduct more enlightenment.
We live in an outcome based society, forever focusing on what we can achieve, where we can end up, and the predicted end result. The so-called “Now Generation” is incapable of living in the moment - living now - when constantly focusing on our perception of our future. We make life about control, reducing it to an equation as placid as ‘A + B = C’, where  ‘A’ and ‘B’ represent choices and sacrifices, and ‘C’ represents the product of our actions. I’m not denying the knowledge of “every action has a reaction” as truth, but more simply the fact that this equation is missing a number of variables. Otherwise put, life isn’t quite that black and white.
In speculation, I would first like to point out that this A, B, C equation is nothing more than what I’ve concluded from a lifetime of observations on how people attempt to create their lives. People are [generally] aware that their behaviors have results which form their scenarios and they choose their behaviors [often] on how they want the results to look. Now, this is what I wish to appeal – the outcome based decision making.
Believe me, I understand how ludicrous that last line must sound without explanation – doesn’t it just make sense to organize your decisions based on what you want to see in your life? Isn’t it obvious that one would want to pursue a goal (C) and make a plan (A and B) in order to achieve that goal? Isn’t that what we’ve been taught our entire lives? I know I have. I didn’t skip the C.A.P.P classes that taught me about S.M.A.R.T. goal setting and I was definitely surrounded by those posters with the motivational encouragement telling me I could do anything I desired with just a little more practice… just get a little more control over my life.
But I’m going to take a stab at bursting your well-designed and nearly bullet proof North American bubble that has encompassed you and  the “pro” goal-setting mindset.
See, I believe the most important realization is not that our actions have outcomes, but that ALL actions have outcomes. Meaning, the equation isn’t so simply ‘A + B = C’, but a little more like this:
While I realize the female side of me seems to enjoy making everything way more complicated than it is, this is not what I’m doing by presenting this formula (nor is this meant to represent anything other than a confusing equation with multiple variables NOT to be taken literally). I believe a lot of things in life come with simple answers; what I’m trying to point out here is the idea that with so many interactions and variables constantly streaming through our lives, how do we continue to blame or congratulate our measly actions when the results begin to unfold? Half the time, we aren’t even aware the results have started unfolding!
Yadda, yadda, yadda, I could argue forever on the topic of understanding how little control we have over our lives and the world around us, but I’ve learned that only those who are realizing it for themselves can really comprehend the words. Others who are stuck in the idealism that they are the ultimate producers of their future just hear white noise and argue with a defensiveness of no rational other than socially fed mental pollution. Bold of me, no?
To tear apart the placid, black and white analogy of decision making further, we must not deny that actions have multiple reactions; I’ll frame them as rewards and consequences. In my moral relativistic nature, no matter how ‘A’ and ‘B’ are made up, there will always be rewards and consequences – the equations must balance (duh, that’s why they “equate”). We can’t have excess amounts of positive on one side, without negative on the other side to balance it out, but that is childhood learning (despite that we try to deny it as such). In realizing that we aren’t the only ones adding to the equation on either end, we must also realize that our outcomes not only affect other peoples’, but that ours’ are greatly affected by others as well.
Let us pretend I won my battle in proving we don’t and can’t have complete control over our lives:  I’ve been given lots of great advice over the years, one of my favourites being from my best friend – “We don’t determine the outcome, but simply guide it.” I love that one because it allows me to hand over the frustration and disappointment while reminiscing in the self-manufactured achievement… or does it? Trust me, I’m in no way denying this as amazing advice, I’m just digesting it a little more thoroughly these days.
Here is what I’m proposing – what if we stopped worrying about ‘C’ altogether? And no, I’m not advising making wild, volatile, care-free and spontaneous decisions at any given moment (I would never even idealize that as sustainable.)
Here is what I’m trying to do at least.
I want to take ‘A’ and ‘B’. My sacrifices and my choices…
And I want to focus on those…
I want to make my decisions and my behaviours representative of who I am,  what my values are and of my beliefs…
Without fear of an unwanted outcome. Without gambling on a “sure thing.”
Because if I do that… if I’m continually trying to be honest with myself and the situations I am in… and I formulate my little and possibly (in)significant impact based on my solid virtues…
… won’t the outcomes be balanced to equate that as well?
… won’t it all even out?
… won’t my outcomes be as genuine as my behaviours?
To have an open discussion with me on this topic would undoubtedly end up on my theories of people trying to predict their future through any means possible – science, astrology, psychology, religion… even relationships - but I’ll save those thoughts for another overtly lengthy blog post.
This whole topic of thought trailed from journaling about how manipulative I feel our society has become. So rarely do I meet people who simply do something because that’s what they feel now, rather it’s people (myself often included) who conduct their behaviours to facilitate an outcome, especially in person to person interactions. And isn’t that manipulation? Isn’t that… a different form of deception? Isn’t that… not real?
I value real.   

“Here is to the inestimable freedom of owning nothing other than our choices.”

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

A new meaning to Social Work

Since I was old enough to make my own social arrangements, my mother has been telling me I need to cut down on my “going out”. I’ll admit, it’s extreme. I love people. All kinds of people. And like everyone else on this planet, there are those that will rub me the wrong way or that I find to be just plain mean, but for the most part, I truly just enjoy other people’s company.

But my mother has a point – this outrageous social life of mine can get in the way of finding a good work/ play balance. I find my finances get prioritized to meet my social needs which will often leave me shorthanded. Or I very simply just don’t manage my time to a level that can accommodate my day to day responsibilities while satisfying my thirst to mix and mingle.

Now, do not misinterpret this. I love my alone time, also. I desire it every bit as much as I crave to be social. I’ll personify it to breathing – my alone time, is a deep breath in. It keeps me from going mental. And from my observation, my alone time is quite a bit more intense than most others’. For instance, some people enjoy reading, watching TV, going for a run, listening to music, or zoning out on Facebook when they need their space to themselves. I, however, am actually alone with myself (as alone as the universe can really let me be.) By this I mean I’m not only without the presence of people, but without entertainment and distraction as well. Without the need to be doing something or having purpose in the moment beyond being with my own thoughts. While I know there is a great number of individuals out there who also do the same and enjoy reflection while they are among no one but their own consciousness, it isn’t common. It isn’t “the norm.”

I digress. This heavily weighing, uneasily satiated desire to interact and commune with other people at all levels needs to be rethought. Now, I could try and force it to go away. Simply restrict myself, tell myself ‘No’, and live with that constant pressure that could develop more and more volatility each day… or… I accept this as a characteristic of me, as neither a strength or a weakness, but simply, a large part of my identity.

First step in this process of accepting? Finding a job that accommodates it. Better yet, a job that encourages it, facilitates it and rewards for it.

My name tag will now proudly read:

Miranda – Junior Assistant Cruise Director – Princess Cruises.

Essentially, my job is to socialize with guests, plan parties, socialize with guests, emcee events, socialize with guests, attend parties, socialize with guests, make friends… did I mention I’m getting paid to socialize with guests?

So for those of you who don’t already know, come February 17th, I’ll be in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Virgin Islands, Barbados, Antigua & Barmuda, Florida, and Bahamas; Add the Azores Islands, Portugal, Spain, England, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands; I’ll circle through Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, St. Petersburg, Poland & Germany a few times, then end with some holiday time in Austria, Croatia, Italy, Greece & more UK – Sounds a little like “Where in world is Miranda Landry?”. Could be a fun game!

I think in total, I’ll be in nearly 30 countries; It’s an amazing itinerary- I could have circled the same 7 day route for 6 months in the Caribbean (talk about Groundhog day). But no, I have the every changing and relocating route of getting see some of the most spectacular places in the world – in a position that couldn’t suite me better if I’d planned it.

It sounds so perfect you’d think I was making it all up – it is still surreal to me. If I put it in perspective, I realize a job that requires this much social interaction and being away from home for 6 months might not suit many people, but it really is EXACTLY me right now.

I’m hoping to start publishing articles (specific to my cruise line adventures) while I’m away, but I’ll keep posting blogs as well.

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Simple Lessons

I'd be lying if I tried to exclaim that 2009 felt like an incredible year for me, but there is an unexplainable gratefulness inside me for all I was put through, for all the difficulties. I will never forget the past year for the unique and stressful struggles that overwhelmed my life, but in hindsight, it's obvious that none of it was in vain. There is not a single moment of strife I am not thankful I endured, because to go without that means to also go without the wisdom that supplies my appreciation for the joy I will discover in 2010.

It's become one of those lessons in life that makes me wish I was a better teacher. Or maybe just better at practicing what I preach. But whatever the case may be, if I could find words so simply put that it could trigger a light bulb inside someone's soul, so they could feel it (because simply recognizing it as truth is not enough to live it), than maybe learning this lesson could have a larger impact than just changing my life. Maybe then, it could have a greater effect on this world. But I feel it's not my words this time, but an old favorite, who can say it with greater simplicity than my complicated female antics are capable.

I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.

I walked a mile with Sorrow,
And ne'er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me.

-Robert Browning Hamilton