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February 1st, 2007 - Michael Schmillen

A needle pierced my mother's frail wrist as they took a blood sample before moving on to her final chemotherapy session. The room was sterile and quiet, and other than the doctor's instructions to hold a piece of cotton over my mother's puncture, I could not hear anything. When a drop of blood escaped from the wound, slid down my mother's wrist and off her pinky finger, I could hear it as it struck the cold tile below. This small red blob of my mother had such a vivid contrast to everything around me, it was as if it were the only life in the room. I stared at it as we left. Leaving a piece of my mother behind, the door closed abruptly. February 1, 2007: The Now

I opened my eyes from a dream just as a friend of mine gently shut his front door. After contemplating getting up for a few minutes I moved from the sofa and into the restroom. I could hardly recognize myself as I splashed cold water on my face. Where did my weight go? Where did my money go? How did I end up on my friend's couch? With just three months until college graduation, how could I turn things around? It was exactly five years prior that my mother passed away, and up until this point I had accomplished the impossible. Despite a number of hardships, I had escaped my small town and put myself through college. However, my perseverance and accomplishments were voided in the present. A dark feeling blanketed my being, and teased me into believing that I had been living in vain. It is my sense that we as people are inclined to see our present moment as a climax to everything that's led up to that situation. Much like a movie builds up to a point, we tend to see the present as a culmination of every achievement, failure, and bit of adversity that has led to that point. We escalate "the now" to a point where we can not see beyond it. On this day 10 years ago, I was blinded by my present. February 1, 2017: The Wow I woke up again this morning from a reoccurring dream. It is about 7:00pm and it is dark outside as I attempt to adjust myself to the local time. I am jet lagged. In recent years I have been living as a teacher in various cities throughout China. On this day however, I am in my father's home in Idaho. I am getting to know him. I have told him about my life as a teacher, and about my experience as a traveler. I am proud of my life. I have traveled to over 20 countries, and have many stories to tell. I have taught over 8000 students, and feel inspired by my students and their life stories. I am often in awe by life and where it has taken me. There are possibilities in life that are hard to imagine. This sense of "wow" is something 10 years has given me and I am looking forward to 10 more.


Michael Schmillen was born in Albany Georgia on June 29, 1982. He moved to South Carolina when he was young and lived there until he moved to China in 2010, where he began his career as a teacher. Currently he is living in Hong Kong with his lovely wife Nicki, and is receiving a Masters degree in Cultural Sustainability from Goucher College in Maryland. Michael encourages you to learn more about ANY organization that has the aim of facilitating cultural exchange. In a time where people and countries are becoming more and more isolated, we need to support every effort to connect with people from all corners of the world.



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