After a particularly intense day of work I set down my bluetooth, close the laptop and take a minute to let my mind slow down. I found myself staring at a piece of art called “Heart Lake” by Jane Kiskaddon which we purchased from the artist on Union Square.
I’ve inserted it here (with the rights to do so as I own it). My intention was to just meditate for a minute as I’ve got a slight headache from multitasking for the past 4 hours but found myself thinking about the currents of life or simply “life currents.” My meditation cut short and my mind being filled with many different questions and thoughts, I thought I’d take a moment to post these thoughts that have obtrusively entered my brain.
The lake in this piece put me to thinking about water, rivers, streams and how they simply flow to their destination. This led me to consider that some people perhaps go through life on a sure and steady stream and life goes rather smoothly for them with minor bumps along the way.
In fact, from the time we are born until the end of high school and perhaps university our path is pretty much laid out for us. We are required to attend school, learn things and at the end either continue on the stream or reach an abrupt end.
I have always thought that at this particular time, life was easier for those who studied a specific discipline. If you studied medicine then the next step is to become a doctor, no real hard decisions need be made. If you studied accounting then it is natural that one would seek employment from an accounting firm. Life continues at a leisurely pace and the stream carries them along.
For me, my stream came to an abrupt end with my graduation from university. I was a business major and this field is much more broad in scope than someone who has specialized. I remember sitting in my university apartment while others packed their bags to continue with their lives in previously arranged jobs. The majority of these were the people who specialized in something. I felt as though the boat had left and I was stuck looking for a life raft.
My main goal was to work abroad and this seemed like a pretty tall order and to put metaphorically the large determined current I had been riding was now dry and I was looking for a very tiny stream. Yet, with the internet now in full swing I utilized its potential and was able to find my stream which led me to English teaching in Japan.
I didn’t know it when I first joined as it seemed a path with very few take, but what I learned is this stream would turn into a river with expatriates from all over the world taking this opportunity. As I learned my way around and how things worked the current became comfortable and I was tempted more than once to just stay put and let it take me where it may. I learned to tread those waters very well and could have made my life in Japan. I know many other English teachers who are still there to this day! But I looked downstream and saw that my options would be very limited and most likely not take me where I wanted to go.
Therefore, I climbed out of that current and moved to Vietnam. To abruptly change ones situation like that can be a bit frightening and usually one has no idea what lies ahead. Again, I thought I was taking a path that not many take but was once again surprised to find more than a few expatriates who had made Saigon home. Again, the stream seemed small to find but turned into a river as many others were already there and a life could be made.
I loved life in Vietnam for the time I was there and thought more than once about staying. But yet again, I found myself looking far down the path and not seeing it taking me where I wanted to go so jumped ship again.
It has now been four years since I arrived in San Francisco and find myself being swept along by the current and life becoming easier as I have learned how everything works. The problem is that due to my past experiences I have a certain itch, a nagging desire to jump out of the current again to explore something new.
I would describe it as feeling “wrinkley” from staying in the water too long and having the urge to climb out and let myself be chilled by the cold chill of the unknown. Perhaps from my past experiences it is a pattern, a habit I have developed to continually feel restless after becoming too familiar with my surroundings. Maybe I am addicted to the natural high of having my senses stimulated with unfamiliar surroundings?
Yet, at 33 years of age I feel it is time to let myself be swept along a little by the current and build a solid base. For this to happen I’ll need to “institutionalize” myself a bit more and take opportunities as they come instead of forcefully creating them myself. I may need to stay in one physical location for quite a long time and thus purchase a house for practical reasons.
For most, this might all seem quite normal but for me, it seems like a very large anchor which limits the range of movement. It seems like it is almost taking away a very large degree of freedom which most people might not even think about.
I wonder if other people who have lived in foreign countries feel a bit like this. To “settle” is seen more as a burden and the accumulation of things as a very heavy chain. If one is to settle, does the constant urge to travel continually gnaw at them?
For me, I have thought about all these things. Yet, I take comfort in the fact that I chose San Francisco as the place to be weighed down among all the others. I enjoy being close to the ocean, I enjoy the diversity and all the diversions that this area has to offer. In fact, I really can think of no better place to be if one must stay in one location for a very long time. Therefore, I can deal with my cravings to travel and subdue them to a point.
I wonder how far this current is going to take me and where I’ll end up career-wise. I would hope that I am able to recognize new opportunities and find new experiences although they may not deliver the rush of international living. Or, will I just drift into a sleep and let the current take me where it may?
Just read an article in the NY Times which relates a little to this post.
"The Summoned Self"
-David Brooks http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/03/opinion/03brook…
"This is a column about two ways of thinking about your life. The first is what you might call the Well-Planned Life." — You plan out everything and live according to that plan with no exceptions
The second is "The Summoned Life" – Not planned, not afraid of the unknown.
"Life isn’t a project to be completed; it is an unknowable landscape to be explored."
I would say I most definitely live by "The Summoned Life" way of thinking but have most recently been drifting a little towards the planned.
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