In The Heights (I’m Home)

Thursday 3 December 2009

This past Monday evening, I had the pleasure to attend the Broadway musical In The Heights (winner of the 2008 Tony for Best Musical) in New York City.  It has some great music, but the story itself got me thinking again about home, a topic I discussed in the fall of 2007 on another blog post: home IS where the heart is.  In that post, I discussed how as I travel around, I take people with me in my heart, always bringing “home” along for the ride.

In The Heights got me thinking a bit more about how much that fact is or isn’t true.  I may get the love from many places, but what location feels like home?  In In The Heights, the main character’s parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic, which he feels to be his homeland and wishes to return, but really he, along with many of the characters, are in a struggle to reconcile the lands they or their predecessors came from with their attachment and feeling of “home” in the Washington Heights community of NYC they have become a part of.

Jumping around from place to place the last 2 1/2 years, never staying for more than about six months in one place (often less), it’s been a long time since I’ve felt any location or community as a true “home,” at least in the ways In The Heights creates such a feeling.  Thus, I am taken back to the place I grew up, NW Ohio, and the place I went to school and spent two years following, Chicago(land).  When you’re in a place that long, you develop a lot of connections not only to people but to the location and livelihood involved.  Thus, attending this musical got me thinking deeply about returning to my “homeland,” one of those two places.

However, it also reaffirmed another commitment within myself in this job search, and that is making a commitment to whatever community it is I find myself in next.  It’s been too long since I’ve really been able to commit to a location, but that’s one thing I’m thirsting for as I seek my next job.  At one interview, I was asked where I saw myself in 3 years, and I said I saw myself doing whatever it was I ended up doing next (in that case, that specific job). I see my next step as a longer term commitment than I’ve made for a quite a while.  I want to connect with a place again, something I’ve only tangentially done the past 2 or 3 years.

So while I have two settings that, deep down, feel like “home” to me (along now with multiple houses/residences), I think there is room for more.  While I think there would be some comfort to returning to Ohio or Chicago, I also believe that embarking on a new adventure in a new city/location has the ability to create a new “home” for me, wherever that might be.

I’ll just be waiting expectantly (the topic of my next blog) to find out exactly where that might be!

giving thanks (again)

Thursday 4 December 2008

I meant to post this last week (on Thanksgiving proper), but I guess I hit the wrong button.  So here it is:

I’m never quite sure why people read old blog posts or how people even find some of them (though the stats wordpress gives me tell me some of the more popular old posts are found through various kinds of searches).  So it was somewhat surprising to see last week someone had clicked on one of my posts from last November that, when I saw the title, I didn’t know what it was about.  It was good, though, because it got me to read my own post again and realize that the same feelings rang true, almost a year later.  The post was a reflection for Thanksgiving upon that which I was, and still now am, most thankful for.  So if you don’t mind, I wanted to just point you to that post again, encouraging you to give thanks for that which is most important to you as you read what is most important to me.

giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you might be.

the people in your life

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Ever since my blog about 1 million Iraqis being killed in the past 5 years, I’ve been thinking about whether or not I actually might know a million people. The perfectionist in me wants to make an excel spreadsheet list of all the people I’ve met (and remember enough to write down) in the past 25 or so years of my life, but the realist in me knows that would take quite a while and probably not be worth it in the end — and it would likely become just another list I’d want to keep track of as I meet more people, kind of like my ever changing list of movies I’ve seen (those I want to see but haven’t just aren’t rated).  Plus, it would kind of be sad, deconstructing the humanity of relationships into simple spreadsheet.

So instead of turning my life into meaningless statistics, I instead try to think about all the lives of others that have intersected mine. There are definitely people I’ve been in the same room with that I’ve ran across but I would not say I “met” and certainly never “knew” them. And there are surely people who’ve “known” me but I never had contact with — those students for who my name came up in conversation and who were aware of my presence but for who I wasn’t their teacher would be one example. If you let the idea of “knowing” someone require the act of an introduction and/or conversation having taken place, the list becomes a little more exclusive, but even then I’m still amazed at the variety and abundance of people I’ve met and places I’ve met them.

School is one of the larger segments of ways I know people. Since I went to such a small school containing pretty much the same people K-12, perhaps I know fewer people than others that way, though with that small town, too, I came to know most of the people in the community in one way or another, and they can’t be forgotten about. I also know a lot of people form college — classes, dorms, and students groups — and if facebook would have came around a few years earlier, I might have a better estimate of just how many people that might have been.

Church and groups with a spiritual aspect are definitely another big connection for me. I’ve attended (regularly) about 4 churches in my life and have built lasting relationships with people in all of them. I’ve also attended many conferences, retreats, assemblies, and gatherings where I added more people to my “list.” I’ve met and formed many amazing relationships with those associated with Lutheran Volunteer Corps — volunteers, LVC staff, and the many people I met during my trip or otherwise recruiting for LVC. And this section would in no way be complete if I didn’t mention Camp Mowana. I’ve probably worked with around 100 people who were on staff while I was there, and then there are the hundreds, if not thousands, of campers and pastors/volunteers who I met during my time as a counselor. Because I have an issue with names, many of those campers would probably be slighted in a name-specific list format, so that’s another reason not to make one.

And then you have all the other somewhat random ways in which I’ve met people — parties, game night, community organizing, friends of friends, rugby/curling/frisbee/etc., jobs/work not listed above — I’m sure I could name many more ways. I invite you to reminisce about the many people who have stepped in (and maybe out) of your life, making it what it is today, for they are the ones who have truly brought it joy and meaning.

And I invite you (as always) to leave some of your comments about ways you’ve met some of the people in your life and why you find them special — be as specific or as general as you’d like, but I think it’s good to really give credit to those who make this life worth living.


Sunday 3 February 2008

So this past Saturday evening was the “Bjorlin Bash.” The guys I stayed with (in their dining room) this past fall hadn’t really asked me for any rent or payment, but I decided to give them a little money (nothing even close to what I would have normally paid) when I left to do with what they wanted. Anyway, after discussing it, they decided to use the money to throw a party, and the facebook listing (well, at least one of them) was named for me, so I decided it would have been irresponsible if I didn’t go, so that’s how I spent about 4 hours Saturday evening.

Now I wasn’t expecting to know anyone there, really, and I surely didn’t. The only person I really knew was my friend from college Jason who I had connected with in the first place to stay there. Then I knew his two housemates from living there, and I also lucked out by knowing this other couple I had met in the fall when they came over for a small Indian food party. But I’m guessing there were possibly 50 people there (it was happening, I must say — I was impressed), and I didn’t really want to follow Jason around all evening, so I had to get extroverted. And as surprising as it is to me and to you, I actually did!

Well, not at first. I did find Jason, and he was was the couple I knew and 3 other co-workers, so I hung around with them for a while, but I knew I couldn’t last the whole party that way. But luckily I had a few other things going for me. First, my picture being attached to facebook invite helped a few random people come up to me and say hello, and they also just introduced me to others, saying, “Do you know who this is? It’s eric bjorn (I corrected them eventually), the dude who got this party going.” So, as is good for me, I was introduced to others, which made it easier for me to talk with them.

Secondly, I wore my “Ohio Love Me” shirt — now for some people this shirt has been played out, but in this group, it was new and definitely a hit. A great conversation starter and reason for someone to strike up a conversation. And, as someone said, “I bet you’re happy you wore that shirt — you’ve probably had all kinds of girls touching your chest all night, right?” Which is probably true, and more apt to happy the longer the night goes on. So that was fun to have, and an interesting way to connect with people.

But — but — I also actually just went out and started random conversations with people! I figured there was nothing to lose, and it surely beat being bored for the whole night, so I started chatting up people, asking who they knew that invited them, and just that initial “get to know you” kind of thing that has never been my forte — and not that it is now, but I definitely surprised myself. And after meeting some fun people to chat with, I continued to mingle, but this way I had other people I could return to throughout the night that I could reconnect with if desired. And it was nice, too, as I had some people to walk to the Metro station with when I left, and I even got connected to some people who might be having a party themselves in the near future, so that would be a fun, thing, too. So is this how people do it?

I remember parties in college and even one this past September where there were maybe a few people I knew, so I hung with them and didn’t really meet anyone new, but it was actually kind of nice to not have that safety net this time. I think a lot of the people I did end up talking with were largely talking to people there they knew before the night began, but it was really fun meeting new people, which I’ve come more and more to realize I enjoy, a lot. I may not be extroverted, so it’s more of a challenge, but I think this was a good step for me in branching out and taking the next step of meeting new people in new ways. Who knows what the future may bring!

giving thanks

Thursday 22 November 2007

When I really sit back and think about the things I’m thankful for, I could name a lot.  But what’s really been hitting me hard lately is how much I’m thankful for people.

People in my life take all shapes and forms — some I live with, some I work with, some I hang out with, some are family, some live close by and others live hundreds of miles away, some I talk to daily and others every month or so, some I exchange letters with — and that is good.  I am thankful for the many and varied ways in which I connect with others.  I’m 25, but I feel that I have, at least for me, recognized that the meaning of life is all about building and sustaining beautiful and edifying relationships, and in all I do, I really strive to make that my priority in living.  I would suggest it of you, too, if it isn’t already.

I am thankful to have so many people in my life who I know love and support me and all the endeavors that I might carry out, who love and respect and honor the unique person that I am.  Acceptance is something that I have become to hold very dear to my heart, because in this world, it’s somehow so hard to find that.  I am who I am — my beliefs, my upbringing, my wonders, my actions — some of which can be changed, some of which cannot.  I continue to evolve as a person, and I truly value those in my life who recognize and encourage the changes that are happening.

As it goes right now, I don’t seem to be on the “standard” track of living, which I continue to daily accept as my destiny, and to have others who truly respect that as who and what I am is invaluable.  While I could probably muster up the energy and courage to do what I feel called to on my own, it becomes so much easier when there are others there to offer their love and support.

On this fourth Thursday in November, 2008, I thank all those who give me the love I need and meet me where I am.  I am truly honored to have you in my life, and I pray that I am doing the same for you.