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Birthday Realization: A Vice May be a Boon!

Reflect for a moment: What is something you absolutely adore (it makes your heart pitter pat and wakes you up in the morning with excitement), but which drives everyone around you absolutely CRAZY?

For me, one of these things was my Internet addiction.

Picture this: I would be having a perfectly delightful evening with my closest friends, then I would spot an unsupervised computer in the next room. Excusing myself to “use the bathroom”, I would furiously browse the World Wide Web like a junkie snorting her fix.

Inevitably, my friends would find me and start screaming, “Why are you online AGAIN?? What the heck is wrong with you, you freak??”

My birthday present to myself is the following: Accepting that certain things I have loved and will always love (like communicating with a million people via Internet) that caused me problems in my Boston life, might actually serve a useful, positive purpose in this traveling one!

Let us pause to list a few other “vices” that got me in trouble back in Boston:

1. Tendency to wander off alone to see what else is nearby
2. Lust to seek out and gaze at beautiful things
3. Passion for keeping in close touch with an extremely wide circle of people
4. Short attention span, and rabid curiosity for new things and people
5. Excited preoccupation with future plans and “what if” schemes
6. Adoration of gossip, dramatic tales, and asking prying questions
7. Necessity to keep my fingers busy, most happily through typing
8. …Aaaaand… the good old Internet love.

Back in Boston, I’ve gotten yelled at more times than I can count for various incarnations of these traits– and often rightly so.

And yet, by removing myself from the world where these things are harmful, and shifting into this Around the World Trip, it turns out that each of these things helps me each and every day, both to travel, and to write about what goes down. Now, I think these characteristics actually make other people happy! They certainly make me smile :)

Last night, midnight hit and it became my twenty-eighth birthday in Mui Ne, Vietnam! I realized I had been online for two hours, chatting with former students and old friends, and writing and researching an article about my friend Anish’s car crash. I suddenly felt guilty. “What if someone sees me on the computer?” I panted, looking frantically around at my empty hotel room.

Then I realized: writing makes me really, really happy. Supporting former students though school by chatting with them online makes me really, really happy. Having a great day with new friends in Mui Ne and spending the late night chatting online with old friends and family around the world makes me really, really happy. Having this blog and promoting the heck out of it makes me really, really happy.

“It’s my birthday, dammit!” I declared, “And I want to write until three in the morning, because it makes me tingle with happiness from my head to my toes!” And I did.

“Happy birthday, me!” I whispered as I snuggled into bed at three am, proud of all that had happened that day.

One common criticism of female first-person narrative writing is that it’s navel-gazing, and thus self-centered and “fluffy”. I rage about this because we tell our stories not just for ourselves, but, chiefly, to impact the reader. In reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s fantastic “Eat, Pray, Love” back in Boston, I finally got over my fear about my upcoming trip and began to let myself get really excited. I’m glad I did!

Similarly, I tell this story because I think we all have some traits that are deeply part of who we are, but that we have to squash, tight and uncomfortable in our little toes, because they don’t mesh with our current environment.

My challenge becomes: get yourself, even for a little while, to a place where you can embrace and indulge those traits, letting out an explosive sigh of: “Finally. This is what I love, and it’s all right!”

Note: All photos are from gorgeous Mui Ne beach, which has seduced me into staying an extra two days… at least until the next typhoon is scheduled to hit.

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