I have noticed in recent years that I tend to go through specific seasons of learning in my life. Or I guess more accurately, I am ALWAYS in some season of learning, it’s just that I never know when the lesson is going to change. Regardless of where I am or who I talk to, I tend to hear the same whisper behind every conversation. The same internal mantra springing forth that grows stronger with every unrelated emotional and verbal affirmation from the outside. The same point that gets repeated and repeated until I eventually acknowledge it and consciously pick it up and carry it around with me. The idea that has been coming to mind over the past several weeks is: pay attention to the details; acknowledge vocal inflections, word choices and the intentions behind them. It’s such an odd feeling, and I’m not sure exactly when it started but now it is an ever present ‘ticker feed’ running along the bottom of my mind all day. Like on the TV when you watch CNN.

As much as these new practices pertain observing other people, I am also finding that I am being more purposeful in the way I chose my own words. Two words that I would have perceived in the past to be interchangeable because of their similar meanings are now uniquely different. In the past, I haven’t paid much attention to the way people preface statements. I didn’t ever notice any substantial different between people who said, “I think that….” And “I feel like…” But recently I had a major revelation. Though I consider myself a fairly intellectual person, I intellectualize through logic—but THEN turn it over to process through the filter of my emotions and how any particular choice will make me (or someone else) feel. I was talking with another friend the other day and I recognized that he was totally intellectual as well, but in (what seemed to me at the time) a solely mental/factual/logistical way. That was perplexing, and I soon realized, VERY different. Whether it’s conscious or (more often) not, word choice does matter. And it reveals a lot about how a person operates.

Maybe it’s the result of my life plans and path shifting over the last few months. Whereas I previously expected to return to acting full time after paying off debts and loans next year, I’m now planning on moving overseas for a while to teach English (or whatever else I can do that comes along and is interesting to me). At first it was difficult for me to reconcile these ideas. How do you go from something like acting to teaching and moving to foreign countries? I asked God for a long time why He’d even bothered to bring this whole acting thing to the forefront in the first place if it wasn’t something that I was supposed to try and tackle in the immediate future. And I think I finally know why.

Because in all the things I’ve been doing over the last 5 years: acting, casting, working production for film, and more recently tinkering with writing stories for radio, I have been sharpening similar skills. They all relate to one thing. Learning how to recognize, relate and appreciate other peoples’ stories! The thing that has always interested me about traveling is having the opportunity to encounter other cultures, food, art, languages and people. Always the people. And I think THAT is what the last 5 years has been accomplishing. Polishing social and ‘people’ skills (in some cases working hard just to FIND a particular skill—and THEN starting to try and get a firm grip on it later) is key for being a healthy part of any community. Whether that is here, or in a foreign country. Despite cultural differences and language barriers we are all human beings. And most people, if given the chance, like to be listened to.

So I think that’s my new job: being a community builder; or perhaps more simply a facilitator, wherever I go. I’m pretty sure I don’t quite understand all that entails at the moment, but I am learning. I get so much enjoyment from hearing a person’s story and learning about what makes that person a unique individual. I’m not sure if that’s an appreciation that can be clearly expressed or related, taught or transferred to other people. But for now I think I’ll keep heading that direction.