I love it when people tell me they want to go abroad, travel, and discover, ultimately in the hopes of finding themselves. My first instinct begs to ask something along the lines of, I’m sorry, but are you lost? I’m usually standing right next to the person as they’re telling me this, so chances are they’re not actually lost. But I can’t help but wonder, what exactly do people mean when they say they want to find themselves?
When I quit my job this Friday and packed up my DC apartment on Saturday in anticipation for an upcoming one-way flight to Bangkok, I never thought of it as an impetus to “finding myself.” Really, I just spent the past year and a half drooling over incredible travel images flooding my Facebook feed, wishing I was anywhere but my cubicle. And let’s get this straight, I loved my job.
I don’t feel lost, and I don’t feel confused. If anything, I am content. Perhaps too content and comfortable with my cushy and stagnant life. I was dating a guy a few years older than me, briefly but seriously, and one day he asked me if I saw a future with him. And the more I thought about it, not only was he the wrong guy but I was the wrong girl. I’m not done growing yet. And even though it’s 100% possible to grow with your partner, I’m not the girl I want to be yet when I find my partner. When I meet the guy I’m ready to build a future with, or find the dream job I’m ready to settle into, I want to be the best and most developed version of myself. One who has lived life for herself. Because, once you’re in it with someone else, you’re no longer in it just for yourself. And while this means something different for everyone, for me it means pushing pause on my current life trajectory and tangentially jumping into the crazy unknown I’ve always been scared of, stepping outside my comfort zone and quote on quote “finding myself.”
But this doesn’t mean I’m lost or I’m looking for something. I could settle down today and I’d probably live a happy, successful life doing it. But as I’ve read in many articles not unlike this one I’m writing now, our 20s are supposed to be this adventure and time for unparalleled self-development. And while it’s not in my nature to seek adventure (trust me, I’m the first to claim grandma status when it comes to going out and being social), I find myself here, leaving my career, family and friends to pursue the world.
But it’s not forever. I like being a young professional and working for the government. I like my cozy apartment in the heart of DC. And so I’ve realized that in this growth-seeking path, I’m not looking to find myself. Rather, I’m looking to notice myself. To better know myself and identify the things that make me, me. As soon as I board the plane solo and change my surroundings, the language, the people, the food, and everything else, the only constant will be me. And I’m confident it’ll be easy for me to notice who I am when I am the only familiarity standing out.
What are my defaults? How do I handle unpredictable and completely new situations? How do I deal with complete loneliness among a sea of people? I always thought I was Type-A, but can I go with the flow? Going into 2018 I don’t know where I’ll be, who I’ll be with, and what I’ll be doing. But how many twenty-four-year-olds have a year of savings in their pockets and a completely blank canvas in front of them that can be painted any which way they want?
These are the aspects of myself I am hoping to acknowledge, cultivate, and build upon while I’m traveling. And I hope that when I am ready to jump into my next relationship, my next job, my next city, I can be a more confident and recognizable me.