Posted in Growing Up, Spirituality, Travel

A Mother’s Guidance Affords Agency to a Young Daughter 

 

My mom is the mother; and I am the young daughter (many years ago).

I’m going to be self-indulgent in this post and selfishly promote my book. I may have been the protagonist in my story, but mother was the main character in my life, as well as the other main character in the coming-of-age memoir I published three years ago, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away (paperback version) or Kindle version.

As I have explored the concept of agency in human development here on my blog for several weeks and go further with an example from my own At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Awaylife. I know Mother provided the “curriculum” for me to grow assertive, self-reliant and unafraid—in other words, to develop a sense of agency, in order to be the CEO of my own life. Travel trips, living in other cultures, and being on my own all generated agency that has served me well into adulthood.

HER STORY

Mom propelled me into the world, where she had rarely gone herself. She married two weeks out of high school and had me 21 months later. By age twenty-three she had two baby boys in addition to me. She and Dad situated our family in Piggott, Arkansas (northeast Arkansas) on a plot of land and in a house they built and moved into the month before I was born. At age thirty-seven she became the administrator of the nursing home that she and dad built with another couple and opened in 1966. She became the second largest employer in town.

Mother’s domain extended to the First Baptist Church one mile from our house. She taught Sunday school forever. She held every position possible in the women’s missionary union (WMU). She was leader to different children’s programs. She sang in the choir. She served on many committees and chaired most at some time over the years. And she always showed at potlucks with tasty treats.

Our family did not travel much, took very vacations. Mom and Dad were busy working, raising us kids, and active in the life of our church.

MY STORY

In first grade, my teacher placed a seashell to my ear and I traveled to the ocean to hear the surf for the first time. My third grade teacher read the adventures of the Box Car Children that I relived each night before dropping off to sleep. I toured the world in fourth grade geography, where I learned Switzerland was a country without its own language and Japan, a country with a language of pictograms I could not read.

But moreover, I built a curiosity about the world at church, through mission studies and missionaries who visited our church. Sometimes religion can narrow our views of the world, but in my case the church expanded my outlook on the world, and in turn developed my worldview.

OUR STORY

Poignantly, my mother launched me into the world, discerning that travel is fundamental to exploring the world, though she had never done so herself. Mom, progressive and enabling by standards then and now, proved to be an instrument of me growing up strong, independent, and resilient. She trusted me, but more than that, she trusted the process of becoming an adult. And she entrusted me into the hands of Jesus Christ in her prayers.

Mother knew what Mark Twain expressed in the “Conclusion” of The Innocents Abroad, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of Men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Before I was twenty-one I took many imaginary trips, along with ones in real time. Travel became my herald, mentor, and shadow. I prized the strength and wisdom that travel offers. And now I relish life’s lessons, learned—those treasured, even those squandered.

I dedicated the book to my mother, Gaye Wiley, wise beyond her experience, who provided me the means to learn about how to make my own decisions; how to act and behave in ways that were caring, compassionate, and smart; as well as, providing a safety net until I had developed sufficient resilience to get up on my own and try again.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOM!!!

To purchase the paperback version of my book go to: https://www.createspace.com/4766298

To purchase the Kindle version go to:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JU4WITI

Posted in Growing Up, Travel, Travel Writing

What is “agency” in coming-of-age?

I have a thing about “agency,” which I wrote about in my coming-of-age travel memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away. For many of our young women particularly, but also young men, I believe they have difficulty in acquiring a sense of “agency” for themselves in today’s world. “Agency” is not an often used term, but it seems to capture much of what I think is needed for young people to develop as they come of age. (My concern and interest is primarily young women, so I will address them.)

I want to explore this concept for several days in a row on my blog to see if I can bring more clarity about it for myself and for you, my reader. Hopefully we can discover its ingredients to growing up and maturing in our society. Here goes!

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When I speak about the agency of a young girl, growing up, maturing and coming of age, what do I mean? Think with me in terms of a “travel agent.” What is the role of a travel agent?

An agent researches and selects a destination; sets up an itinerary of sites to see and things to do; arranges lodging, food, and transportation; develops a budget to generate the cost for you; creates reasons and benefits of why one should go to that location–all to minimize your work in getting ready to travel.

Much like a travel agent, a young woman learns through experience, how to make things happen for herself. Even failure becomes a powerful learning tool. Each young woman  is capable of becoming her own “agent.”

She can determine a destination that appeals to her and check the things she wants to see and do there-decide if it is a worthwhile journey. If still it’s still an attractive destination, then she can determine if she can afford to go. If so, she can schedule transportation, make arrangements, and generate the cash to finance the trip.

Once she is there she makes the most of her research and what she learned from others who have been there before. She will learn what she likes and doesn’t like about the place and the trip. Failure and success will inform her next adventure in life.

Over time, this sense of “agency” becomes more refined and more productive for her. We often call this “growing up.”

What do you think?

 

 

 

Posted in Spirituality, Travel, Travel Writing

THE HERO’S JOURNEY – The Call (Step #1)

Joseph Campbell introduced the world to The Hero’s Journey in a book entitled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. After years of study he discovered similar storylines in stories, fables, and fairy tales. He called these similar steps, The Hero’s Journey. Though there are many ways to explain this layered epic journey, one simple way is to outline the five stages:

  • the call to journey;
  • preparation for the journey;
  • the path and encounter;
  • the return; and finally
  • reflection in telling the tale to others at home.

HERO is meant, not as a male model, but an inclusive, universal archetype.

Archetype = a classic prototype

As a traveler, an adult educator, writer and blogger, I believe I should not only write about the Hero’s Journey, but I should model what it is and how we can use this ideal in our own lives. So for the next few weeks, I’m going to share how I use these steps as I get ready to travel to Lima, Peru for a visit with friends. This week I’ll write about THE CALL.

I will not be touring Machu Picchu (one of the wonders of the world), which would make this an epic spiritual experience—a true Hero’s Journey. However, The Hero’s Journey, as an outline or model, helps us see and realize travel as a practical AND spiritual experience, regardless the weight of the travel or the experience.

THE CALL

Joseph Dispenza in his book, The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey of Self-Discovery says the call to journey is a request of our inner self. Often we are ready for a shift, change or perhaps even a transformation in our lives. When we answer the call, our intention sets something in motion—whether you call it God’s hand, the universe, or spirit.

My husband Lynn and I try to make a trip (just the two of us) each year, in addition to visiting family. In recent years we have traveled within the U.S. borders. In the past however, we have journeyed to such exotic places as Japan, South Africa and most recently in 2008 to Turkey. It has been a long time since we have been out of the country, except for our annual month-long stay on a Mexican island.

Lynn and I are both adventuresome, but in different ways. He is more physical in his need to step into the world and explore; while, I am more intellectual or interested in exploring ideas and relationships.

For the last year or so, Lynn has been talking about going to see our friends, Raul and Patricia in Lima, Peru, where they grew up and currently live and work. (They and their children are bilingual by living in English-speaking and Spanish-speaking countries since we last saw them.) Raul had been Lynn’s graduate student decades ago. We have had them in our home many times in the States and know their kids, Daniella and Ian. But have not met their youngest, Mariana, born since we last saw them.

Lynn and I asked them early this year when would be a good time for us to visit, April or September. They opted for September, so when Lynn went to purchase airline tickets, he asked Raul, “early or late September?” Because Mariana experiences her first communion in late September, Raul asked if we could come then. How special to get to celebrate this milestone in her life.

FEARS

Dispenza writes in his book at length about The Call and our reaction to it. We choose to see friends, who happen to live in Lima, the City of Kings, so we can see the city as well. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have fears about going. Dispenza suggest we identify our fears (hesitations, reluctances), write them down. Next, decide which ones are irrational and which ones are realistic. For the fears that are left, write them on a piece of paper and place them in box, so you don’t take them with you.

Here are some of my fears. I’m afraid…

  • That I won’t have the stamina to keep up with our hosts and their younger family. (Realistic)
  • That I will be intimidated visiting our bilingual friends. (Irrational)
  • That we will impose too much on a family, which is still working. (Realistic)
  • That we will not get to explore and feel adventureous, because we are staying with locals. (Maybe, maybe not)
  • That I won’t be able to look and act as cosmopolitan as Raul and Patricia, who have grown up in the city. (Realistic, but irrelevant.)

Dispenza suggests that we take the realistic fears and see what we can do about them. Lynn and I have offered to take off on our own to tour the city while they are at work. This addresses fears #3 and #4. Fear #1 requires that I get plenty of rest while away, I don’t let myself get dehydrated, and I stay active, but not to the point of exhaustion. These things mean I must communicate with our friends how much is enough or too much.

VOLUNTEERING

In answering The Call to this place, Lynn and I also offered our services to Raul’s university to do a workshop or seminar with our extensive university backgrounds. This idea grew out of an experience years ago in which Lynn and I conducted a week-long in-service training for Mangosuthu Technikan in South Africa. We found we got to know locals in a more real and personal way. We got to learn what their higher education problems were as compared to ours in the U.S., which often were more similar than different. And three cultures in the training workshop, African tribal, Indian, and Afrikaans, shared their separate stories as they related them to the issues of higher education in South Africa, their challenges as faculty and as South Africans post-Apartheid.

Raul and we have come up with a plan to share our experience in experiential learning that augments the standard classroom learning. We hope this sharing will be a two-way street between us and the faculty, and will be useful to the university, students, and faculty in implementing new learning opportunities for students.

Lynn also asked Raul to attend an English-speaking Toast Master International club while there. He will offer an extemporaneous speech, if the two of them can manage a time to go together.

MEANING OF PLACE

Again, Dispenza offers guidance on how to think of The Call in allegorical ways. He suggests we list the different meanings the PLACE can be for us, both literally and metaphorically.

Lima, the City of Kings, associations:

  • Wealth, whether I’m talking about money and jewels, or conversation and friendship
  • Silver and gold, whether learning their history or shopping for jewelry
  • Incas, learning about a culture that vanished years ago and experiencing the current cityscape of Lima
  • Treasures of friendship long-ago, treasured time together now, what we have to share today
  • Opportunity to be part of a major family tradition, Mariana’s first communion, and the chance to meet with her extended family members who will attend also
  • Glittery society of a metropolitan city versus a small-town atmosphere, simply the lights of the city will be a sight for us
  • Spanish language, a romance language, the language of today, most likely not of the Inca’s
  • Latin America, different from Mexico and Costa Rica, central American countries with which I’m acquainted
  • Spiritual, the Peruvian history has an aura of spirituality, especially Macho Picchu; our contribution through volunteering can be a spiritual experience

With these associations in mind, here are some possible ways our travel can create meaning for me.

  1. We get to explore and discover a Latin American culture that provides some adventure in our routine lives. By experiencing city life in a Latin American country, which I have not visited before, this may be a glittering example of riches of a culture I have not participated in before.
  2. We have the opportunity to participate in the spiritual lives of our friends by attending Mariana’s first communion.
  3. The primary reason for the trip is to become reacquainted and spend time with our friends. This visit will be special, because they will be sharing their hometown and their culture, unlike it has been in the past in our country, when we shared ours with them.
  4. Our volunteer work at the university might open some doors of new friendships and international cooperation and/or research. It is possible this seminar might develop into future consulting that might bring us back.

As I consider what this place can mean to me, I realize that these ideas are pure conjecture on my part.

BUILDING A SHRINE

Dispenza suggests we build a small shrine to present what is going on in the outer world that represents what is going on inside of us. He considers a travel shrine, as a “tangible expression of the journey in all its many manifestations, including your excitement, your hesitations, your preparations, and your expectations.” (p. 46-47)

Right now I have a stack of books about Peru: its history, its landscape, its significant people and locations. I have the days marked off my calendar and reservation filed. I will have to think about shrine building some more. But the call to journey demands preparation next.

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Travelers: Can you identify with any of these actions I took as a result of trying to follow the Hero’s Journey? Was building a shrine easier for you than me?

Writers: Do you see the value of viewing your protagonist as a sojourner? Can you craft the “call” of your main character in your next story? Does this add an element of intrigue, depth, or richness? How did you do it?

SHARE YOUR ANSWERS BELOW. I look forward to hearing from you!

Next Week: THE PREPARATION