This is the very first entry of what I hope to call a look into my life, starting at 21 years old. The idea is to extend this platform into the later moments, years, and stages of my life, allowing for documentation of all the growth, ordinariness, and extraordinariness of another one of us: the “human experience”.
I have been living away from my home area (the U.S.A.) for 7 months now. After growing up in California, attending high school and university in the golden state -surrounded by supporting, loving, and remarkably charismatic family and friends- I decided to study in Sweden for one year.
The experience has been indescribably something else.
The moment I boarded the plane back in August, I had no idea what I was doing.
Moving to Europe for a year.
The thought sounded foreign to me, as if it was news from a distant family member. But my feet were walking on the plane. My hands were buckling the seat belt.
And 13 hours later, I was there.
I think back 7 months, and the world looks different.
Sweden looked different, a foreign place with the charm of a childhood novel. The cobblestone roads that intertwined with one another, proving to be the most confusing layout a first-time visiter could find themselves in, have now become my playground. An acquainted setting for my memories.
Home looked different, a specific place with a specific address. Defined by familiar streets and familiar faces. Davis, California; Santa Barbara, California. Now home seems less like a place. There is no specific address. No single country. Home shifts with every step you take, and every person you meet. It resides in you and the people you know, the memories you have and the ones you will create, more-so than physical origins.
My dreams looked different, ideas of what I wanted to accomplish. Vague goals I would play through my head, a short-film of the things I might once be able to achieve, in the hue of a future fantasy. Now dreams don’t play through, they aren’t stories. Instead of outcomes they resemble values. Values I aspire to grow strong throughout each life course I take.
Things have undoubtedly changed, and I believe I have grown. I am not afraid to say that.
This past year has surprised me in so many ways, and gone far beyond what I was able to comprehend about living overseas when being lectured about tips, directions, and so forth, prior to departing.
But the point of this is not to notify the rest of the world of an exclusive fairytale journey, unequaled by experiences of those at home or others abroad.
Because I have done nothing different than anyone else in this world who has travelled. I have done nothing phenomenal in living away from home, as millions of other people do and have done.
Sure, in every sense, my experiences abroad have been extraordinary. Traveling among different cultures, witnessing phenomenon I once dreamed of in high school. It is all unimaginably rewarding.
But that is not the point.
The point is that life itself is a fairytale journey, if looked at through the right lens. My experiences are special to me, but they are no more special than anyone else’s are, or anyone else’s will be. Rather, they are just as special.
Because although I would not trade these past 7 months for anything else in the universe, I would not trade these past 21 years for anything else in the universe. Because it has all been extraordinary.
And amongst it all, I still have no idea what I’m doing.
And I am joyous at having no idea. Because no one does.
I might just be more confident in having no idea. And love the fact that we all have no idea, and have no choice in having no idea, together. I laugh and rejoice at the fact that all we can do is have more ideas, even if they don’t make sense. Just like this paragraph.
But sometimes the things that don’t make sense, end up making the most sense. The sky looks bluer in Sweden. The seasons bounce into life like I have never seen before. The smiles of my friends are so contagious that sometimes I worry I’ll never be sad again.
I feel more connected to the rest of this world than I ever have before. Maybe its growing up, maybe its witnessing other ways of living.
I feel more connected to myself than I ever have before. I know better the things that keep me going. What a happy life, in my own eyes, looks like.
- Achievement, for yourself and the ones you love
One beautiful part of this life is that things always change. We get to witness the world around us in so many different ways, seeing so many different miracles at different points in our lives. In the home we grew up in, or the country we just arrived to. By the wondrous mind of a child, the inquisitive mind of an adult, or the calm mind at 80 years old.
And what is more beautiful is that no matter how much things change, we are always still “us”. We may be looking through a different lens, but are nonetheless different biologically than we were five years ago. We may have spent the past ten years independent of people we once knew, but are nonetheless a person all the same. Different experiences and different perspectives may appear to separate us at first, but can always be shared with the rest of the world. Sharing diversifies, and diversifying the palette of colors with which we see, create, and question, gives us a chance to connect. And live more wholly.
Because no matter how different things seem, how individual our lives appear, we all experience similair phenomenon. There are always things to connect us, always ways to dig deeper, always opportunities to learn from the stranger walking next to you.
As I contemplate the past 21 years of my life, I try to pin down some of the things these subtle but fundamental changes brought to light:
Traveling is about connection. Understanding how large the world is, while at the same seeing how it can be so small. Rejoicing in the lives of different people, so different than your own, that at first it seems truly foreign. But then realizing we laugh the same, dance the same, and drink the same.
Growing up is about connection. Seeing things more clearly than we did before. Strengthening perspectives we had all along, or breaking some down and building them up in new ways. Learning how to reasons with others, as well as ourselves, and strengthening our ability to practice reason with compassion.
Education is about connection. Thinking through the world alongside like-minded people, while learning how to coexist with unlike-minded people. Investigating our surroundings to uncover the similar foundations that bind us together.
Family is about connection. Standing as yourself with an entire invisible army behind you, in different places around the globe, or in places no longer of this globe. Understanding that we are never alone in our sorrow, our passion, or our discernment.
And I recognized, there’s a theme to all of this.
Life is about connection. Connecting with others. Connecting with ourselves. Connecting the small gestures, acts, or events that stand out, and catch our eye. And then weaving them together so we might get a refocused glimpse of what life truly is: beautiful.
I may be an optimist, or a social addict. I may think too much, or feel too much. But this is what I believe.
This is why I love people. This is why I love life. This is why I want to share my experiences, because they are not only mine, but they are yours too.
They can remind us that miracles do exist. They occur every day.
And they are worth sharing.
So here’s to the lifetime we all share, the experiences we all absorb, and the questions we all try to answer.
From the dialogue of another one of us.