Saturday, August 24, 2013

Treading water in a Transient lifestyle

Sometimes, when one person opens up, sharing something heartfelt and personal, it has a snowball effect. One person’s honesty can be the abra kadabra necessary to ajar the floodgates of built up emotion in those around you. Even if it is your family and close friends, truthfulness begets truthfulness.

I got an interesting email from a family member yesterday. It was a forward of an email that said family member had sent to a spiritual guru explaining some misplaced feelings. The confounded air of the message had been the result of many stimuli (past heartaches, current media, the seemingly unchanging nature of humans) all taking action at once. While this person is normally seen as a rock, the invitation to view and live their instability was an eye-opener. It made me realize that much like Ro Sham Bo, rock does have its weaknesses. For the person who opened up to me, I feel like I need to open up also. This week, the transient lifestyle has started to weigh on me.

For those back home, don’t get too excited. I’m booking my ticket for Kolkata as we speak, and have no new plans to return to the Good ole U S of A. I love where I’m at, but what I’ve realized is that in between the moments of ecstasy, there are strong feelings of longing, loneliness, and fear. There is nothing wrong with feeling this duality of joy and pain, but I knew that they were abundant and needed to be explored. Luckily, the beauty of travel is as if it were magic, when one asks, one usually receives.

On a twelve hour long visa run to the border of Myanmar, I realized I couldn’t write while in a bumping, honking, speeding bus. This led to Watching The Perks of Being a Wallflower. During the film, (along with falling in love with Emma Watson) I found myself becoming increasingly nostalgic for simpler times. While I’ve often looked back on the punk rock scene I loved so much, as well as running, I rarely look back on high school with fondness. It isn’t that I didn’t have fun, I just know that I’ve worked hard to become the person I am, and wouldn't mind forgetting certain aspects of my being back then. But in this moment, I was longing in a way that I had never and it felt good. As I reveled in the feeling and shuffled through songs from those days, I came to the realization that it wasn’t high school or being 18 again that I was longing for; I was longing for community.

The thing about being an angsty teenager is everything matters so much. While looking back now, you can see how silly some of the worries and “life or death,” situations were. The fact is, though, people cared back then. On top of that, your friends were all that mattered. Any time of day if you received a call, you friends were there. Morning or night, mid-class or mid-movie, your friends came to the rescue. The only thing that mattered were the people you had around you, and the only moment worth living was the one you were in.

In the west, as we grow and develop we also tend to isolate ourselves. While some do this as a downsizing mechanism, leaving only their immediate family, their spouse, or a few friends, others use it to immerse themselves in work or school. This CAN be a positive process, but along the way, it seems as if we lose that sense of caring, that sense of magic that accompanied so many things when we were younger. Friends become fleeting phone calls and texts messages on birthdays. Scheduled coffee meet ups become Facebook stalking. The spontaneous show up at your door and say “WAAAAZZZZ UP,” of course, becomes creepy and not endearing. People grow, change, and along the way, lose the sparkle in their eye that made them who they were. As modern day philosophers Blink 182 put it, “I guess this is growing up.” But is it really?

In this past week I made a huge jump coming back from the secluded village life in Lahu to the hustle and bustle of the city. On top of that, I received news my best friend may not be returning to our home for the better part of a decade, as well as realizing I was saying seeing a few people for possibly the last time. These experiences amalgamated to a longing for purpose and community, only exasperated by the strong nostalgia rendered from the film (or maybe these feelings fortified the nostalgia?). My transience had reached a road block, and being alone in a hotel room didn’t help. So where is the resolution?

As Explosions in the Sky back the melody of my fingers dancing on keys, the resolution exists here. What I experienced this week was a longing for purpose and community, when really, the purpose and community were in front of me the whole time. At this moment, I’m immersed in a community of great people wandering the globe. On top of that, my purpose is pursuing happiness. While yes, this does in fact take finding an ACTUAL purpose, it also takes finding out who you are and what makes you tick. For me, what makes me happy is this existence. Somewhere between the work schedules, relationships, and lack of time in the west, I lost my magic. The sparkle in my eye disappeared, and the only real way to re-ignite that flame was to go in search for the right fuel. On that journey I found that the magic still exists in those who take the time to appreciate the little things. The small cranks of the greater good that turns day into night every 24 hours. It exists everywhere, yet, without my travel community, I may have continued to overlook it.

Traveling isn’t always easy. While from an outside view it looks like the best thing in the world (and it is) the moments of loneliness, fear, and obfuscate futures can weigh on a wander. If one doesn’t have a strong sense of self, community, and purpose, it can be too much. Luckily, my sense of community in both those around me and my loved ones back home only grows with the small cranks turning every 24-hour cycle. Through them, as well as the work dedicated to a better sense of self and purpose, that nearly lost magic gets a bit stronger each day.

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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