Saturday, June 18, 2011

Solutude and Exploration

The first question people in CT tend to have when they find out I have moved from Arkansas is "wow was this like a huge culture shock!?".  It is kind of funny to get that question, as if I traveled to a foreign country or something.  Although it is a great distance and there definitely is a cultural difference I always wonder why they think it is a "culture shock".  But generally I think it is a result of the fact that most people up here are pretty much clueless about everything that goes on south of..New England..  I don't know, it even might be MORE of a "shock" to them finding out that there actually are something things happinin below the Mason-Dixon line..
Honestly the biggest "culture shock" for me..other than the more to my way of life than to the scene around me.  The intent of leaving my hometown, somewhat on a whim, was really to push me into new places, get me to experience new things and hopefully grow as a person given the doors for  future forth and so on.  In doing so it has really been a humbling experience.  I have to tell myself quite frequently that it is only the beginning and their is no failing only challenges along the path of life.  Socially things are by far different.  One becomes used to relying on somewhat continual access to social encounters, available buddies and fellow "partners in crime".  It becomes a new challenge to rely on your own self for entertainment and possibly going outside of your comfort zone. 
There is one thing that always bugs me though.  I am all about exploration and having new experiences and I'm not afraid to go outside of my comfort zone to try something but I find the social perception of a solitary explorer to be kind of frustrating.  I know I am certainly not the only single, unattached person in the world..there are many out there like us..perhaps in a new place or just without a large source of companions but as I start to get out and do things to entertain myself I can't help but start to pick up on the taboo nature of a lone person partaking in public activities.  Why do people tend to feel sorry for the person who is out and about by themselves?  Perhaps eating alone at a restaurant, going on a hike or singularly signing up for a group seems like people tend to find this person sad or lonely...  But honestly, is it not more sad and lonely to be sitting at home by yourself?  Perhaps this social outlook is what keeps many lonely people lonely and afraid to try new things?  Are we singular people supposed to stay hidden and tucked away where no one can publicly see that we have no companion?  Is it not a far greater act to be actively partaking in the world than to sit at home and wait for the right group to partake along with you?   Honestly, I am not afraid to go to a restaurant, hike, bike, farmers market, cafe, concert etc by myself but yet I get the feeling I'm supposed to feel embarrassed for myself when I do.  I haven't tried going to a movie alone yet..for some reason that does seem like a big feat.  But I would if I had the desire to go sit and watch a movie..
Honestly, it is a little bit of a challenge.  And it's frustrating.  And what is really frustrating is thinking of the large number of people who are effected by this and afraid to venture out by themselves.  I know it is not ideal, but the insanity of being stuck indoors at home to me is a far worse situation.  Maybe it's just my nature that makes me require the need to fill time with activity...although I have definitely learned some new habits of a more relaxing/lazy manner which I wasn't so good at before..either is definitely different.  I am happy to get out and see so many new things..but still held back from much just because of this singular person taboo..

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hey Punkin', Savor a Bowl of Tasty Goodness!

So I think it is safe to say I have been failing lately on the cooking front.  I can blame it on the wisdom teeth (yeah that sounds good!).  I got my wisdom teeth out a couple of weeks ago and it seems like life has been a blur of soft foods: yogurt, ice cream, hummus, tofu, soup..ahh to eat something truly substantial!!  Well one of the things I had wanted to do all Winter long was make chili.  Chili is so warming and for some reason it reminds me of home (my mom and aunt both make REALLY good chili).  I love making chili. It's kind of like a magical adventure of throwing stuff in a pot, setting it and forgetting it, stirring occasionally and in the end you are rewarded with something magical and truly comforting...kind of like home I guess.
Well if I'm anything, I'm an experimental cooker.  I'm at my best when I have a recipe, if only there really was a "recipe for success" in life I would be a pro.  I was browsing some recipes and was struck with curiosity at a recipe for Turkey Pumpkin Chili.  Now to me this didn't seem all TOO shocking but I had plenty of doubters when I expressed my intent.   The real truth of the matter is I've had a can of pumpkin puree for months and I have no idea what I was going to do with it.  I think the original intent was pumpkin hummus..but try another day - especially after the success of this dish!
I thought I had lost my chance to make chili, since weather has suddenly creeped up into the 80s here.  But today I was blessed with a nice chilly (hehe) rainy day in which chili made the perfect sense.
Ingredients at attention!  I deviated from the recipe a little..added a little bit of Guinness Extra Stout(tasty) and used a pepper I bought at the French Market in Stamford this weekend instead of two jalapenos.
I always believe you know you are getting a good meal if it involves a lot of chopping.  I love chopping.  I'm slow and awkward at it but there is something to the meticulous detail that you can apply to chopping vegetables.  You really have to have an adequate knife though..and chopping board of course. 

The aroma of garlic, onions and peppers..the first true sensory exposure we get to the cooking it.  I admit, I'm really not a very brave experimenter.  When I have a recipe I feel safe, I trust the recipe.  And seldom has a recipe ever let me long as there are no user errors.  In life I can see this side of me a lot.  I always have to make a list.  Every day I write down what I need to get done.  When I'm thinking through a project I always have to write down my thoughts.  In school when I used to write papers (ages ago it seems) I always followed an outline, it was the only way I could ever get a paper done.  Which I often did very well, unlike my twin sister who I would always end up helping as she started her class paper (because I had already finished mine).  But even though I am always comforted by a well thought out step by step plan, that isn't to say I don't wing it every once in a while..but that's when things like Corn tortilla Hummus & Sardine pizza happen...
So the moment of truth..the pumpkin!  Would the recipe pull through for me?  What was this going to be like?  I admit it really didn't make much sense..and when I was pouring it into the pot I thought to on earth is this going to work!?
Well then the miraculous thing about Chili..somehow it just really can't go wrong..I mean you can put too much meat it in it or too much tomato..but in the end it's always good and comforting and extremely SATISFYING.

So there you go, my first substantial and tasty meal in what has seemed like forever!  I sat down to try my creation, to the tunes of my Pandora quickmix playing through the apartment, an ice cold Guinness and the computer in front of me as I look for weekend plans.  Lets hope satisfying adventures lay ahead much like the chili I had tonight!  I have to say, I hardly noticed the pumpkin.  But if you thin kabout it it is really no different than say a butternut squash just added a little bit of thickness, richness and nuttiness to the chili.  It was all very sweet, spicy and satisfying.  Even though Turkey really destroys the look of any chili, it's far lighter than traditional beef.
So here is to the theme of life now...adventure and new experiences.  Now I just have to find some folks to help me with all this leftover chili!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Uncharted Waters

Okay, I'm running off battery power here so I've got to think/type fast.  The latter I can handle, the former..that's the trick.
I just was thinking before going to bed about the changes over the last 5 months.  Maybe I'm feeling a little reflective tonight knowing tomorrow morning I'm going under the surgeon's knife (oral surgeon that is..).  Wisdom teeth extraction...I better think of some posts because I have a feeling that may be my only form of communication over the next couple of days..
But really, I am not thinking about that very much tonight.  I have a lot of things on my mind..and as I'm starting to realize I tend to ALWAYS have a lot on my mind.  Moving was a personal challenge I put in place for myself and as with any challenge there are difficulties to surpass.  I knew it was going to be hard and I knew it was going to be different.  But I don't think I went into it really understanding myself enough to know how to handle it right off the bat.  I figured all would fall into it had my entire life for the most part.  Growing up in familiar territory, generally around the same people, we (I) develop habits.  Not just habits in the way we live, for we are all creatures of habit, but more so the habits we don't realize we form.  Interpersonal habits.  Habits that we really don't have to think about.  Habits that when put into a completely different ocean, don't always work in the same way.  That, mixed with an even greater lack of self confidence is the heart of the challenge for myself anyway.  I am often noticing that I do things and say things I don't realize are possibly a little out of place.  They can be jokes or random comments I just say without thinking.  Everyone back home knows me in one sense..and I have really never taken the time to TRY to be anything other than what was necessary for me to exist in that domain.  So, the things we let slide in our self come around to pay us back in the end.  But I think it's a good thing really.  While it is humbling, jumping outside of my norm has forced me to come to terms with a lot of idle habits I otherwise would have probably not even realized.  Going from a place where you have a family that accepts and is beyond questioning those little quirks to a place where in a sense you have to build a relationship from scratch means making a conscious effort to adapt.  I think one of the real challenges for me is to focus less on finding ways to relate to my new surroundings and more on trying to understand it and be open to it.  Striving to make an input, to relate my own similarities really just relays an awkward self involvement.   I probably did this before without realizing it, but I spend so much time thinking about how to act and how to relate and what, within what I know, can I relate to the situation at hand that I rarely am IN THE MOMENT.  My friends probably know and accept the randomness that ensues..but being outside of that norm has made me realize it even more.
I don't really know what all this means.  It means I need to be more in the moment I guess.  So I can stop making comments out of context, forgetting my belongings and losing my place  in general.  Perhaps these little quirks come out more when faced with a challenge to self confidence in new surroundings or perhaps they are just more apparent to me now.  It's all part of the adventure I guess..