… and discovery is the path to purpose.
Being socialized into a culture is in many ways a way to force your personality and innate nature to adjust to your surroundings. A lot of beauty and creativity can be lost in this process. Figuring out who you are as an adult is often about reclaiming that lost beauty and creativity. Maybe that is why so many of us travel to foreign cultures to find ourselves, for in the process of traveling we discover that the “system of thought” we have been socialized into as children is not the only way of life worthwhile.
Living in another country than the one you were born in is both an exciting adventure and sometimes a bit of heartache. There is something about childhood’s old stomping grounds that tugs at those very special heartstrings sometimes causing spells of nostalgia and longing. We are always drawn back to the place we were born.
But returning can sometimes not be as idyllic and comforting as we think. As expatriates, or someone living away from their country of permanent residence, we, and that is me included, often romanticize our home country, the friendships we have there and our family bonds. Especially if we are away for a long time without being able to go for visits.
Seeing that special street you played on again, or chatting with old friends, or just opening the door to your childhood home can be a pretty strange experience. It certainly was for me. There was so much that had changed. And the most prominent change was within me.
I had started looking at things differently. And the world around me changed accordingly.
It’s strange meeting childhood friends again after years of being apart. Sometimes the bond that was there can’t be re-tied. Sometimes you start remembering differently. Memories are subjective and change according to our mood. I have, during these weeks in my childhood home, had to rethink, reclaim, and change color of a lot of memories.
As people we grow all the time. Mental growth goes through spurts just like physical growing in our childhood, only these mental growth spurts can happen anytime no matter how old we are.
When we are adults we learn how to separate from our egos and look at ourselves more or less objectively. We learn and we reflect and consequently we grow. Self-insight is a gift and it comes with age.
Going back in time, looking at who we were, reliving situations from our past separate from our egos with the wisdom of age, can be painful, but it’s a healing pain like the thumping ache in a wound.
Every single moment we have experienced, every person we have been, every age, every phase, they are all apart of us. Sometimes it’s hard to accept certain people we have been, some choices we made, things we have said, things we have done. Perhaps we are embarrassed or disappointed. But I find that it is often these most painful memories that teach us the most about ourselves. If we can relieve them with understanding, separate from our egos, from a perspective of learning.
Learning. I think learning, learning about the world, about ourselves, about being human, is why we are alive. And no learning comes from judgement. Learning comes from a willingness to understand and openness to change.
We are all many different people, yet all those are one and the same. We are different pieces put together to make a unique collage. Sometimes, we may feel that we are playing a role, we are not being ourselves. But those roles are true parts of ourselves too. Every drop of ourselves we drip into this world holds our true spirit, like the DNA we accidentally leave everywhere we go. A role is never a role, it’s just a different version of ourselves. And often, these roles are the ones to hold clues to solve the puzzles of who we are or who we want to be.
Being human is complicated. Attachment is complicated. Sometimes we underestimate the power of attachment. Sometimes we overestimate it. Love and attachment is not the same thing. They are close relatives, but not the same. Attachment is the biological name for love. We need attachment, we don’t need love. But that is what makes love so beautiful. We are never forced to love or to be loved. It’s impossible. Love is much stronger than force.
Meeting your past selves in the door, your past lives, can be challenging. Physically walking through the fields you walked through to go to school is not the same as making that journey mentally. We can of course do either or, but doing both changes us. It changes us because we learn, we forgive, we learn to, or rather we make the choice to, Love all those past selves and past lives.
That choice makes us stronger, stronger than most people. When we choose to love our mistakes, to love our weaknesses and our faults, and no longer look at them as mistakes, weaknesses or faults, but redefine them in light of our present awareness as consequences of an imperfect, vulnerable person interacting with an unpredictable chaotic world, we also learn to see other people in the same way. We learn true compassion born of deep enlightened empathy. A compassion that surpasses religion, moral and holy books and becomes a true beacon lit by ourselves, a beacon we can relight any time, and that only we ourselves can choose to darken and let die out.
Traveling is important. Actual physical traveling, traveling back in time, traveling through our memories, traveling through our minds. It is, perhaps, the most important thing we can do. Take time to travel. It will change you. It will make you grow.
True bravery is daring to face all our true selves and smile warmly back no matter how embarrassing or distressing it is.
The cliche says that life is a journey, well then let’s try to be the best travelers we can be. They say travel lightly, only pack what you need, but the truth is we need everything, every experience, every embarrassment, every wound, every sadness. If the journey is traveling through our humanity then we need everything that makes us human n our backpacks otherwise it is completely pointless and we might as well stay home.
Have an amazing Journey, fellow travelers!
A bit ambitious title, huh? Well, it was just meant to be a bit of fun. Obviously I am no expert or some guru who has all the answers. But whenever I learn something in life, I feel the need to share and perhaps even inspire others. So that is what I am doing here.
I will give you the answer I have obtained from my life experience right away. The key to happiness is flexibility. Let me explain. I sometimes get a bit frustrated with all the slogans and pep talks telling to you believe in your dreams and if you work hard enough they will come true. It sounds lovely. But we are not living in a perfect world and if we become too rigid in our dreaming we might end up feeling disappointment and let down. I think it is great to dream! I am a dreamer for sure. I think dreams are the way we envision our talents and gifts being fulfilled in the world, and that is what life is about. But we need to remember that the only thing that truly belongs to us is that which is without physical form. Even our bodies are not our own. They are borrowed and will at some point be given back to the earth. What we do take with us is our love, our lessons, our experiences…So let us focus on these instead of that which has only material value.
Say your dream is to live in a lighthouse. Most people might tell you that that is impossible. But is it really? Perhaps owning a lighthouse is impossible (do we really own anything at all?), but living in one certainly isn’t. There are many lighthouses around the world you can rent. Maybe you can only afford a couple of nights, but if you treat that time as the only thing real at the moment, if you truly live in the “now” and do not obsess over things like forever and ownership, then yes, you have fulfilled your dream.
Another example: say your dream is to travel around the world, but you are 80 years old and not physically fit enough to travel. You spent your life taking care of family and missed the opportunity. Well, it is still possible. You can go on a cruise! On a cruise ship you can sit on the little balcony attached to your room and watch the world go by without moving a muscle! A cruise ship has excellent medical care in case you should need it and bus tours at every port it docks in. Ta-da! Problem solved.
If you keep being flexible like this most dreams are possible to fulfill. You dream of being a grandparent but don’t have any grandkids, well there are a lot of kids without grandparents in the world. So join a volunteer “Grandparents wanted” program or start one yourself! If you dream of being a parent, but can’t have kids or don’t have a partner, adopt! There are so many children without parents. Or if you can’t commit to that, join a program that helps single parents, or assists parents with children in need of extra care, or help out in a children’s home or refugee center. If you want to publish a book, write it and publish it yourself! If you want to be a singer, record a song and upload it to a streaming service. If you want to start a vintage shop, but can’t afford to, source clothes from friends and family or your local thrift shop and set up a stall on the local Sunday Market! If you want to work somewhere, but don’t have the skill set, offer to work for free a couple of hours a week! If you want to live on a deserted island, buy a tent and get a local fisherman to take you out to one of the many uninhabited islands on our planet. If you want to have an art exhibition, start painting and find an abandoned boat house and make flyers to hang in the local supermarket announcing your exhibition, or if you are too shy, simply leave your paintings for Sunday walkers to stumble upon. If you dream of living in a castle, there are castles (for example in Ireland) you can rent, even for just a night. Throw a ball and be the belle you read about in story books when you were a kid!
You get the gist of this. If you learn to be flexible, to live for the moments, the experiences, instead of the illusion of ownership, fame, material gain etc, there is absolutely nothing stopping you from fulfilling every dream you have ever had. You just simply get creative and make it happen. All on your own.