Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Failure...F*** that!

 Training ruck...
Zoom in; this is what it looks like to stare failure (or my I-phone) right in its dirty face!

Let's talk about the "F" word. No, not the one you are thinking about. Well, okay first we will talk about the one on your mind...

When I was a kid, I had a pretty bad potty mouth. It was so bad, that one day at school, my friend Tiffany pulled me aside during recess to talk to me (it must have been fourth grade). Tiffany was a good Catholic girl and was concerned about my language. She told me that sometimes when she sinned, she would visit church and go to confessional.

"Everyone sins Jaala, there is no reason to be ashamed of it." She stated.

I listened intently.

Tiffany told me, "As long as you confess your sins to God you will be forgiven."

Considering the information, I asked "So swearing is a sin?"

She looked at me and smiled sweetly, "Yes it is."

I asked, "But what if I do it, just when I really mean it and need some strong words?"

"It is still bad Jaala." She explained.

"Okay." I said softly.

Thinking she had convinced me, she asked, "So will you go to confessional?"

I paused for a moment, then replied, "F*** that!"

Yes, it may have been completely inappropriate that I had such a sailor mouth at ten years old, but I was a precocious girl with an analytical mind. I didn't want to be like everyone else, and I sure as hell (see what I did there) did not want to stop swearing.

Luckily, everyone around me let me be the tenacious person that I was. My attitude, as expressed by my words, was that I would never let someone else tell me what I could and could not do if I was passionate enough about it. Apparently at age ten, I was passionate about using explicit language.

Over the years, though I've tempered my mouth (well, not really but in public at least) I have not lost my determined spirit. I refuse to do what others think I should do; I live life hard and choose the tougher route 9.9 times out of ten. Life is much more exciting this way. 

So what am I getting at?

This: (Thanks Adele)



Its me.

I was wondering if after all these years

You'd like to meet.

To go over...


They say time supposed to heal...


After not finishing GORUCK Selection two years in a row, many people may think that it is time to move on to something different, but me, I am not done yet.

To paraphrase my friend Grant, he says:

"If you are not failing, you are not setting tough enough goals."

I believe him.

But, I also believe that if you fail at a tough goal and you learn from that failure, you do not have to reset this goal or adjust it lower. On the contrary, you must move through the failure and use it as a tool to succeed at that once unattainable goal. Because if you actually learn from failure, you grow. Then scary things become less scary, tough things become easier, and before you know it you've hit your mark.

So, though I have erred, my methods have changed and I am smarter now. I have not adjusted downward, things will not get easier, but I will not lose sight of what I want to achieve; I keep driving forward toward that goal of finishing GORUCK Selection.

I'm staring failure right in the face and, in the words of my youth saying:

Failure...Fuck that.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

In Afghanistan, Predictions Come True

Me checking on students in writing class; Kabul Education University 2011

Award ceremony Kabul Education University (me in the green chadar!); 2012

Three and a half years ago, before doing my last teacher training in Afghanistan, I wrote about my expectations in the coming years. Many of the teachers I worked with have since completed their master's degrees, the country has become more volatile, most troops have left. These predictions came true. On the other hand, I never started my doctorate, but took on other endeavors. Life goes on and takes twists and turns; it is nice to look back and see what was, and what can be.

June 24, 2012

It starts as a low drone. Echoing baritones in the distance, haunting the morning. After one mullah starts the call to prayer, all others follow. One mosque, far away begins the wave of all other mosques in town singing Allah’s name until the mosque across the street from my apartment joins into the chorus. The loud speaker faces my window; I cannot ignore the song. Though I am not Muslim, the call to prayer is in my heart. Every time I hear it, I sing along and know that at that moment, I am probably singing with thousands of others, about to get down on their knees and offer their prayers to God. Here, the holy is in the air; I breathe it in everyday and wonder what affect it has on me.

This is my third time in Kabul and I am still amazed at the place. Each day I encounter the kindest people, the friendliest and most devout hearts. Though poverty abounds, people offer anything they can to make me feel at home and comfortable. My friends are happy and my students are ever curious. At the present, life is good in the city.

But when you dig a little deeper, you can see that it will not be this way always. Most of my friends and colleagues agree that as soon as ISAF forces draw down, the country will become much more violent. Though I know that the troops will not completely withdraw, I feel worried for my friends; I feel like their future is so uncertain. I know that the U.S. has to leave some time, but I wish that stability could be created by the people and by the ANA before the US and other nations leave.

I also think that this will be my last time in Afghanistan for a while. Though I love coming back here and teaching my friends, with the addition of the MA program it seems as though I am no longer needed here. This is great for the Afghans. It means that the educational infrastructure is developing and that things are getting better. I no longer need to come back to do teacher trainings because now the faculty is being trained in a new degree program. 

I also will not come back because I think it is time for me to move along with my life. I want to stay at my home in my country and make my own life in America better. I don’t want to have to come to Afghanistan to make money, I want to make money for myself in my own country. I want to go back to school and get a doctorate. I don’t know when the best time will be, but I am sure that will be revealed. 

I am hoping that this time in Afghanistan goes well, and that the teachers are satisfied that I have dedicated a small part of my life to being here. I hope that they are appreciative of what I could offer. Though it wasn’t much, it was part of my heart, some of my skills, and a little love.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Fire, Then Life

At the same time over 12,000 acres of land was on fire in the Sequoia National Forest last summer, my life was burning too. 

As flames threatened the Giant Sequoia National Monument, headlines proclaimed that many of these trees that had lived thousands of years were in danger. If we didn't take action, these pieces of natural history would be lost. 

"We must stop the onslaught of this natural disaster!" Shouted reporters.

Eventually the fire subsided and something amazing happened. The trees that were actually injured by the heat and flames of the fire were able to produce "stump sprouts," new life from the very place that the fire touched. Instead of being destroyed by the disaster, the Sequoias were able to produce life and grow.

I took this to heart and told myself to look at my crumbling life as an opportunity to create something better.

After being in a long-term relationship with a good person who was wrong for me, we ended it and decided to move on.  As we broke up, we changed the structure of our small business into a silent partnership (I becoming the silent partner, he becoming 100% manager). We also decided to split time taking care of our lovely dog 50/50. Things seemed to be amicable. I breathed a sigh of relief…

…Until the fire started.

The fire came in the form of love; not only did love ruin a pleasant ending to my previous relationship, it created something new in my life that has enhanced and rejuvenated me beyond anything I could have imagined. 

The thing is, I fell in love with someone on the heels of a broken relationship.

"How can love happen that fast? You must have cheated on me." Reasoned my ex.

True, it seemed to have happened quickly in his eyes, so when he read my e-mails and saw that I was in love with another man, he reacted. His reaction was the spark that started a fast-burn.

As it was unfolding, I shouted alarming, sometimes opposing things in my mind; I was on offense, then submitting, questioning my worth, then on defense:

"Attack and fight!"

"You must stop this from gaining ground!"

"Give in and concede!"

"How could you let this happen?"

"Defend yourself from this disaster!"

In the end, all I could really do was wait and let the fire burn itself out.

What happens after everything that your life was, is gone in the end?

What happens when the man you once loved, the gym you once spent hours a day training and coaching at, is no longer part of your daily routine?

What happens when you disappear from countless people's lives without an explanation?


I have mourned, gotten mad, felt extremely sad, asked countless questions, felt sorry for myself, felt sorry for my ex, cried, felt relieved…and done it all again, and again, and I still do it all; sometimes in the same night. 

But all of those feelings have burnt themselves out to some degree too. 

Giant Sequoias reproduce best by becoming "injured," by losing a limb or getting burnt by a fire. They create something new from what many see as a natural disaster.

Now in my life there is space where disaster once was. I, like the Sequoias, take these losses and use them to create something new. The love that has sprouted from a disaster has made me grateful for all that can come from an ending…a beginning.

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