I remember when the idea of traveling the world seemed so intangible, so far away, that it was a fantasy I believed only touchable by the truly brave and brazen. I remember how hearing stories of other people’s world trips, whether it was from someone I met at a party or on the countless travel blogs I pored over, would catapult me into a world of envy and admiration. I wanted to be that kind of person. A person who lives out their desires and finds ways around obstacles, internal and external. A person who is self-assured and crafty. A person who stands for what they believe.
Then, one day I looked up long enough to realize that being one of those people wasn’t as far away as I once imagined. Much to my surprise, I lived out some of my travel dreams, held in my hands some of the stories once high above me on a pedestal. I did the things I thought I would never find the gall to do. I went abroad on my own and managed to navigate my way through..but now?
Like many before me, I wasn’t sated. Rather, I simply found other things to lust after and admonish myself about. Next, it became being the successful entrepreneur. Being like those who made money through, what seemed like, their grit and gregarious character alone. And when I reached the goal of finding a client that would let me work remotely? Then it was that I was incapable of learning a new language, that I still needed to go more places, that I was missing a community around me. That my roots were still shallow but the desire to grow deep was just as strong as the desire to sprawl.
The tide of want and uncertainty kept up its steady rhythm with a disconcerting steadiness. The waves of doubt, crushing, and the crests of accomplishment, fleeting. So is this what people talk about when they say, “keep climbing?” That satisfaction can only be reached within, that goals will always be replaced by newer models?
Beyond the clichés, beyond the yogi “present moment” mantra, how do we find solace in this dissatisfaction? Do we simply ignore it and keep pressing on, focusing on the work at hand and tiptoeing around the gaping hole? Or, do we jump into it? Let it swallow us and see it from the inside out, noticing its flaws, hopes, wants and insecurities. Or, do we exist in the middle. Vacillating between forgetting and embracing, letting both sides balance each other out.
We want the simple answer, the one that provides mental relief with refreshing clarity. The one that makes us go, “ahh, makes sense” and lets us carry on our merry ways. And though those simple maxims offer a cool respite, they may not be as truthful as the more complex answers. The ones that consider that balance isn’t just minding the gaps between where we are and where we want to be, but is also about listening long enough to know which actions are a necessity for us. Those things we must carry out because they are the unique expressions that will fulfill us and make those around us the better for it.
These are the answers that lie in that tiny, sometimes almost indecipherable string within us. The thread that sometimes gets carried off in a strong wind and tangled in the thick of a tree, but if let free with the space to unfurl, will weave its way into something beautiful. Meshing with other fibers and marrying into a rich embroidery that will surprise us, when we allow ourselves time for reflection.
Sometimes the space to create this magic comes from a mentor’s encouraging words in the face of all the critical “no’s.” It can also be an opportunity taken that lets you explore new dimensions of your abilities you never knew could be harnessed. Or maybe it is just the peace to say, “I’m just going to let things be for awhile and see how events play out.”
While the varied forms this space may take is infuriating in its multitude, it’s also reassuring in its abundance. When we are looking for that thread we lost amidst the voices of self-doubt and discontentment, maybe we can start by remembering the last time we did something that once seemed inconceivable. If we start there, we will see that the current fixation we’re grappling with is frighteningly familiar in spite of its circumstantial differences. It, too, will soon be another bead on that thread we discover each time anew.