From Sea to Shining Sea

Watching America literally on fire from afar creates this uneasy internal feeling within me, which is a mixture of nausea, fear, and dread.  I am an American living overseas for the past 7 years, and as I see updates from cities across the U.S., these questions spontaneously arise:


  • Is this really where I am from?


  • Is this what our founding fathers fought for?


  • Is this the place my family members struggled to be part of, leaving behind everything they knew?


  • As a multiracial individual, would I be welcome back as a resident in the country?


  • For a country founded on freedom, who actually is free?


Each time I return to America, the disparity is more and more evident.  Last year, almost each of the five cities I visited were bursting with increasing numbers in homelessness. The racial divide is prominent.  Amidst the coronavirus millions have lost their jobs and health insurance.  I know I am not alone in wondering what I can do.


Looking at your home country become an internal war zone is devastating.  We are our own worst enemies. Our national militaries are not being called upon to fight “the bad guys” overseas, but protesters and looters in our own states.  A different type of civil war is emerging, and it isn’t a matter of fighting between the North and the South, but more about the haves and have nots.  What will it take to realize that injustice for one race is injustice for all of us? Although looting, rioting, and setting buildings on fire throughout America is not the answer, will anyone hear the call for help that’s been pleading for years?


What can we offer during this time to our fellow Americans? Prayers, peaceful protests, donations, registering to vote, learning and unlearning about our privilege, creating conversations in our communities, families, and with our children.  How can we step up as a country versus step out? Can we transform our anger and disgust as a trigger to collectively transform?  There may not be one specific answer at this moment, but perhaps we can live our lives through the questions together.  We can continually ask ourselves, how can we as our country move forward and not leave anyone behind?   It is possible to win as a society versus win as an individual.  This is a call to put the collective good in front of our individual goals.  When we begin to realize there is greater power of interdependent achievement versus independent wealth we will become a progressive society once more from sea to shining sea.


Observing and empathizing the outcries and strife of our fellow citizens, most of us are filled with frustration, sadness, anger, and a stirring within to revolt.  It’s easy to complain, blame, or passively watch this happen before us.  Escaping and becoming a resident of another country is a fleeting possibility that has emerged in many of our thoughts.  Part of me recognizes it’s easy to leave (or for me stay an expat), watch from afar, and think that the country’s turmoil is no longer my problem.   Why return to an America that’s burning to the ground?  Yet the United States doesn’t need her countrymen to flee the fire, she needs us to stand tall and together in the midst of it all.  My hope from this blazing fire a new united phoenix will emerge.


This moment has been brewing and bubbling up for years.  It’s time for an inclusive revolution.  I challenge us to follow the words of JFK in his inaugural speech: “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Power of 5

One theory that has always stuck with me is the power of five.  Motivational speaker and coach Jim Rohn once said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  Here’s a question for you to reflect on: who are these five people for you at this moment?   During the time of Covid-19 and living overseas we may think that this is limited to the people that are physically in our homes or work spaces.  Yet I want to encourage you to reflect on the following questions deeper.


Who do you have zoom calls or face time sessions with? How do you fill the free time in your life? What are the shows you binge watch on Netflix?  What are the podcasts you listen, music you stream, or books you read?  Are you doing these activities with intention?  Are you aware of the impact they have on your life?


As you reflect on the five people who are the most prominent in your physical and virtual atmosphere, how would you describe them?  They could be inspirational, complainers, entrepreneurs, jokesters, drama kings or queens, calm, content, distrusting, loyal, competent, spontaneous, health conscious, spiritual, philosophical, loving, fearful, athletic, artistic, and adventurers.  The list is endless, and may not all be positive or negative attributes.  They are a combination of all these characteristics, as are we.   I encourage you to really take the time to dissect who influences you and your environment.  What are the themes that begin to emerge of these people that are part of your life?


It’s important to note how these individuals impact your mood and the choices you make in your life.  We have heard that negativity is contagious, but so are other emotions such as positivity, presence, and joy.  Research has even shown that our peers’ eating habits can impact our choices of caloric intake, with some studies even noting that weight gain can be contagious. Despite all this, there is a silver lining.  We do not have to mindlessly be a product of who we surround ourselves with.  Take intentional action.  What values are most important to you and are these influencers exemplifying this?  If not, who can you begin to surround your world with?  This is the time to curate your power of five.



Emergency Brake

Covid-19 has been described by some as the Sacred Pause, but it is actually more of an emergency brake.  Our lives were moving at an exponential pace on the highway of life.  It’s as if we were on cruise control, not needing to pay attention to much of what was around us.  The driving was being done for us, including the route we were on.  And then an accident was sighted ahead of us.   This sudden halt demanded our attention, as our tires screeched along the way.  It was a shock to our system. The mindless driving ended, and now fear took control of the driver’s seat.  What the heck just happened?



Pre-covid our lives were headed towards destinations that were pre-determined from societal norms.  The speed at which we were going was set to 70 mph.  You had to drive at that pace or be honked at and left behind.  70 mph was the norm, and so it became the value you inherited.  Our lives were so full of busy-ness.  When others asked you “how are you doing?”, the rote response became “busy.”  This was generally greeted with a nod of comradery. Productivity became our human industry standard.


People were not getting enough sleep, but would seek assistance through the forms of Ambien, alcohol or numbing ourselves with the lullaby of Netflix that played quietly in the background.  Many people were stuck in jobs to support lifestyles they couldn’t afford.  They were commuting hours every week to a job that lacked satisfaction, but paid the bills. They were surviving but not thriving.  We were living a muted existence, filled with stuff, chores, activities, and stress.  Sometimes we were able to travel during our allotted two weeks per year.  This is freedom.  Although some of us may have questioned the type of existence we had stumbled into, we didn’t take actions to change the speed we were on.


As I described this article I am writing to my friend Isabella, I shared that it was as if our lives were as monotonous widgets on a conveyor belt.  She responded that what I was describing were the beginning scenes of the Disney cartoon Wall-E.  In the cartoon, humans became overweight, zombie like while staring at screens, indulging themselves with fast food, on these solo conveyor belt highways. Consumption without question.  We were under a spell, because there was no reason to question our convenience.  Life was easy because it didn’t have to be challenged.


All began to look the same.  We wore the same clothes, strived for similar goals that were fed to us as the American dream.  Get a college degree, a respectable job, get married, buy a home, luxury car, renovate that home, and spend the next thirty years paying off the debt you have accumulated.  Buy, consume, work, sleep, repeat.  Everyone complained about stress, dissatisfaction, and lack of sleep, but many of us assumed this was the all inclusive trip to adulthood we had pre-purchased.  We accepted it and played our parts half-heartedly but without a fight.  And then it came to a screeching halt.


Did we want to arrive at the predetermined destination that we were on autopilot towards? Were these the lives we once dreamed of?  Did joy exist?  What happened to the dreams we had set out for?  Were we living the lives we wanted or those that were what our society told us we should have?  We were filling our existence with stuff and couldn’t stop consuming. We stayed busy, and therefore there was no time to reflect.  Productivity was the commodity we were selling, but we lacked the invaluable resource of time to appreciate the rewards.


Covid-19 has provided an opportunity for us to question our lives. After the emergency brakes were pushed for us, we had no choice but to sit with the looming dissatisfaction and question if we were exemplifying the lives that we once set for ourselves.  How did we want to move forward? We are currently sitting in the traffic jam, looking at the accident ahead.  Will we stay on the path we were headed or can we take an alternate route?  There is still time.


The gift of Covid-19 is that it forced us to face our own mortality. Time is not abundant.  As humans we are subject to financial instability, illness, and death. The spell that we were under can be lifted.   We could have been the ones that were killed in the accident ahead, but we still have another chance.


Mary Oliver wondered in her poem The Summer Day:


Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?


The emergency brakes forced upon us now can be a gift.  Will you continue on the road paved ahead for you, or opt for a different route?  What will you do now with your one wild and precious life now knowing there is more than one path and 70 mph is optional?