Friday, June 20, 2014

Past Participle

Well, I suppose enough time has passed to where my self-loathing has receded to a point where I can at least try to communicate like a normal person. In my (slightly embarrassing) last post, I touched on how difficult it can be to relate anything about a vacation in any coherent way once it’s over and I’m back in my normal routine. I can sift through the fond memories and colorful photos all I like, only to inevitably end up feeling like they were all a dream regardless. But despite enjoying my posts from the last time I was in the Bahamas, specifically because they were written during the vacation, there is definitely something that feels inherently wrong about taking a laptop on a vacation, which is why I had zero desire to take mine with me this time. The computer is a wonderful tool, but it’s also wonderfully distracting from the present moment and real life, both of which I was actively seeking out in my vacation, so no, no computer this time and no regrets about it.

And yet, despite that I had no real distractions from the present moment, I still felt like I couldn’t grasp it, and for the first time I stopped blaming my own incompetence and shortcomings and realized that it’s simply not able to be grasped. The present moment that I’m enjoying so much lasts a fraction of a fraction of a second, an amount of time no one can really grasp in any real way, and as such it’s already become past by the time I even recognize it. I kept talking with my boyfriend and my parents about this concept during this trip, which they all adamantly disagreed with me about, but it still feels true to me. And just last night, while reading Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, someone in the book quoted Henri Bergson, “The pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory”. I was dumbfounded to run across that quote, and read it over and over, because YES, THANK YOU, THAT’S PRECISELY WHAT I KEEP SAYING, JUST WRITTEN BETTER. No one agrees with me on this, but my viewpoint is directly in line with that of a major 20th century French philosopher, one who has won a Nobel Prize nonetheless, so that has to at least validate me somewhat.

Regardless of whether or not I’m right about reality or the present moment, all of my vacations are spent repeating the words "don't forget this, don't forget this, memorize every detail, you will likely never see or experience this again in your entire life, don't forget this." I fill memory cards with photos, believing it's the easiest way to keep hold of the moment, even though I know that it barely captures anything. You can't take a photo of the smell of the Caribbean ocean air or fresh coconut bread baking, or the buzz of a tiny 9-seater Cessna engine as it wobbles over islands, or the taste of a freshly-picked coconut, or the way the rough coral rock felt beneath your feet, or all the moments of laughter you shared with people you love in a setting so beautiful it hurts to even think about. You just have to savor it in the moment and trust your memory. But, I don't. I don't know how to truly savor the moments that I most want to savor. I don't know how to be present in a moment that I know is, in reality, already over. I am happy, I am beyond happy, and I am soaking it in in every way I can think of, but I still can't ever shake the lingering thought that it’s already over and will never happen again.

How can that not induce panic?! Especially when the things I'm seeing and experiencing are so beautiful?
From our first night, at a marina in Nassau. Nassau, to me, is the complete antithesis of everything I mentally equate with the Bahamas. Just thinking about Atlantis makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit. But I did enjoy this little marina.
I think James enjoyed it, too.
I was happy when we finally made it to Shroud Cay in the Exumas, though.
Exploring Shroud Cay in the dinghy. Unbelievable.
And snorkeling around Shroud Cay. No big reefs or anything, but there are always things to see.
From Shroud, we visited Warderick Wells, where the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park headquarters are. We hiked to the top of Boo Boo Hill to see a stunning view of the ocean side of the island.
No amount of photoshopping can reproduce the actual turquoises I saw. There were colors I didn't even know existed.
My adorable mother, with the inland side to her left and the ocean side to her right.
Inland view from the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park office.
One of the exhibits of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park- a pilot whale that died from ingesting too much plastic. The amount of random plastic I saw on the ocean side of all these various uninhabited islands we visited was astounding. In the worst way possible.
From Warderick Wells, we headed to Compass Cay, which is the first island that had any kind of civilization on it. And by civilization, I mean generators, spotty and expensive wifi, and a grill for hamburgers. Whereas the Abacos are pretty well settled, the Exumas are mostly uninhabited. It's so nice.
Exploring the ocean side of Compass Cay.
They may not have much on this island, but they do have their very own planetarium.
The marinas are all so cute, cluttered with painted driftwood that travelers have left over the years.
Most of the marinas in the Exumas have their own population of nurse sharks that hang around to feed on the carcasses of fish by the cleaning station. Compass Cay was no different. We had so much fun swimming with these gentle creatures.
Compass Cay was the perfect jumping off point to explore all kinds of neat areas. This is "The Aquarium" above water, probably my favorite place that we snorkeled.
The second you jump in, sergeant majors surround you, and follow you around the entire time. I love them.
But there were all kinds of other fish. Queen angelfish are stunning.
I really wanted to eat this guy. Buuuut there's no fishing in the Land and Sea Park, which is a good thing considering how overfished the Bahamas are.
My dad. What a nerd.
I'm a nerd, too. I get it from him.
Triggerfish are also one of my favorites.
The first few times we snorkeled, I took both my iphone (in a Lifeproof case) and my underwater camera. Top photo is camera, bottom is iPhone. I realized I liked my underwater iPhone photos better and stopped taking my camera. The angelfish photo above was actually taken on my phone, too!
On that note, I'd like to say that this probably would have been one of the best snorkeling pictures of me to date if my Luddite boyfriend knew how to use a damn iPhone.
Another fun spot to explore, the Rocky Dundas Caves.
No photos can really do them justice, especially not blurry phone photos. If there's one thing the iPhone doesn't do well, it's distance and weird light conditions. But the caves were just insane. 
And yet another cool spot to explore was a sunken airplane.
Are we done yet? No? There are more cool places to explore? Yep. This is Rachel's Bubble Bath. The ocean (bottom) crashes over the rocks at high tide into the big inland pool and bubbles all over the surface. I could have stayed here with a cooler of beer for hours. Or forever.
I also got my best above water-below water photos (I don't know what they're called) of the entire trip there. I always get excited when I can take these on my crappy little point and shoot.
Bouncing around on that little dinghy, getting sprayed by seawatr and burned by the sun, exploring all kinds of crazy places that I never knew existed, will remain one of my best memories.
Although I have some pretty great memories from the big boat as well. My mom doesn't love this boat nearly as much as my dad does, but PLEASE DAD, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON'T SELL IT.
I wanted to get this all out in one post, but I've already inundated you with enough photos, and you probably hate me by now, so I'll return again to post about the last couple of days on Staniel Cay.. which you should know will basically just be a million photos of me freaking out over an island inhabited only by wild swimming pigs. I'm relatively easy to please.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Advantaged Disadvantages, Perceived or Otherwise

During my Bahamas trip two years ago, I opted to update my blog as I went. I had plenty of downtime to edit photos and write posts, and actually had fun doing so since I don't do very well with downtime anyway. As a result, the overall feel of those posts more accurately reflected the warm, carefree relaxation of a vacation than anything I could have written afterward. Which is exactly why, try as I might to recall the same feelings I experienced just over a week ago, I'm falling short. The Saturday morning before last, I woke up in the Bahamas and fed wild pigs on a white sand beach overlooking turquoise waters, and Sunday morning I woke up to massive list of all the things I needed to do to get “back into reality”. 

And by “back into reality”, I mean having a mental breakdown over why I needed to concern myself with buying mulch and edging my lawn and pressure washing and how on earth these things could possibly affect my life in any real, positive way when I only have so much time on this earth. Because that's what vacations do to me. I don't come back refreshed and rejuvenated, I come back depressed that it's over and that I have nothing to look forward to anymore, and wondering why I'm living a life I constantly feel the need to escape from. Whether that's out of an ongoing existential crisis or because I'm a spoiled brat riddled with made up first world problems is yet to be determined.

Regardless, this is what always happens after a vacation, which is probably why it’s no coincidence that my blogging hiatus began last year after I got back from Costa Rica. All it takes is one week outside of my comfortable routine (routine being a euphemism for rut) to remind me that life is short and should be savored to the fullest. But instead of savoring anything, I spend 71% of my days working a mediocre job that most definitely doesn’t suck as far as jobs go, but that doesn’t fulfill me in any meaningful way, with only 29% left over to pursue any kind of semblance of happiness. Though in actuality, it’s less than 29%, because much of that is filed away under “maintenance”, like buying mulch. MULCH. A job should just be a thing to earn you the means to sustain life by keeping food in your belly and a roof over your head. Actual life is elsewhere, so why does it only deserve a teeny tiny piece of the pie?

I’m fully aware that I complain too much and do too little. I’m fully aware that only a privileged brat like myself has the luxury of worrying about fulfillment, or existential crises, instead of just feeding myself or paying rent. I’m fully aware that nothing other than my own self is stopping me from quitting my job and seeking one that’s more intrinsically or even financially gratifying (or from quitting my job and buying a sailboat or a one-way ticket to Central America and running off to pursue a life less ordinary). I’m fully aware that the little vacations that sink me into inner turmoil because they’re too ephemeral are experiences that most people will never ever get to have. I’m fully aware that all of the burdens I feel are crushing me and taking away from my life—a house, a job, etc.—are things that most people would be thankful for and never complain about. I’m also fully aware that none of this is ever going to change, because it’s the same story, just a different day, or week, or year.. Scroll back through this blog, when am I ever not talking about this in some regard? I’m the worst, and I hate myself for it.

And on that same self-loathing note, I have to wonder in the back of my mind if these experiences that I idealize so much were to ever come true, would I finally be fulfilled and happy? Something tells me the problem isn’t with my life, but with me and my brain and the ideologies and ideals I've created or adopted along the way. So again on that same note, I begin psychotherapy this week, which will be the first time in my life that I’ve ever willingly seen a therapist, which is also something I consider a burden that should instead be considered a luxury. So, I don’t know, at least I’m trying to change something about my life and be proactive in one small way? So maybe I should cut it out with the self-loathing, deserved though it may be, and chalk it all up to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

You see? You see what happens when I wait until after a vacation to share my trip? I start out with turquoise waters and end up with 1940s psychological theories and it isn’t fun for anyone. So I’ll just leave this here to get it all out and return soon to hopefully talk a bit about the trip itself and share some pretty photos rather than whining about my dumb, privileged, first world non-problems.

Aren't you glad I'm back?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Bahamarama Part Deux

Remember my Bahamarama posts from two years ago? Well, I was fortunate enough to get to do it all over again, this time in a whole new chain of islands that I'd never been to. While we stuck to the Abacos last time, which we love and have visited a few times,  this time we ventured to the Exumas a little further south and a lot more uninhabited. I had a truly unbelievable time and have all kinds of fun photos to share from the past week, but unfortunately I got sick right when I got back from my trip and my head is pounding too much to create any kind of coherent post here right now. So sit tight while I get to feeling better, and take a look at the Abacos trip from two years ago if you like: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Walk It Out

This post is a bit old now, as it's almost full-fledged summer in Florida already (though I know I'll be kicking myself for saying that once August rolls around and I turn into a sweat-drenched fiend, my brain fried from the sun, constantly seeking out water or air conditioning at all times as if they were crack), but I realize I didn't hike this year nearly as much as I usually do in the "cold" months. And so I decided to remedy that on one random last overcast, chilly day by taking the pups and the boyfriend for a walk in the woods, to be followed with hammocking. Lately I've been trying to slow down more, and be able to just stop and be in one spot and actually enjoy it, so a travel hammock is basically a necessity.

This was the first day in a long time I decided I'd take my camera outside with me, rather than just my cell phone, with the intention of posting photos here once again. In fact, my Costa Rica photos from over a year ago (that I never ended up posting here) were the last images on my SD card. So really this post should have come first as the hiatus-breaker, but the one I posted from the cabin weekend just seemed like a grander re-entry. 

But even if this wasn't a grand adventure, I still enjoy having actual photos again that aren't tiny and grainy and on my phone. I have a hard time focusing on the moment so I need these snapshots of my life to refer back to and be able to focus on at a later time.

If it's not entirely apparent (it probably is), despite my efforts, I'm still not doing a fantastic job at relaxing. I am totally making baby steps, and it's slowly but surely getting better, but I still have to move and see and do quite a bit to be able to feel like I'm "allowed" to relax.

While James would be content going into the woods and hanging a hammock up and just laying there all day, I just can't, so hiking followed by hammocking is the perfect combo. I almost wrote "the perfect compromise", but it's not a compromise, it's an addition to my normal routine and and a welcomed one at that. I so value having this living, breathing Xanax in my life to remind me why it's so important to slow down. Even if I'm terrible at it.

I'll get there, it will just take time. And hopefully it will happen before my cortisol levels kill me despite all the hot yoga and kale juice I force into my life (which is an actual worry of mine; I get anxiety over how my anxiety is going to eventually kill me, which is probably not the best strategy to avoid that likelihood). And maybe when that happens, for your sake and mine, I can start writing about something other than my eternal quest for relaxation.