There are many things I have loved so far about my time in Mysore: yoga, food, new friends, napping at restaurants (I legitimately did this yesterday), and observing the quirky and often confusing but always beautiful Indian culture. But some of the most meaningful and enjoyable memories that I have from the first few weeks of my trip have been the few long, spontaneous, deep and thought-provoking conversations that Mariel and I have shared.
Monday was a new moon, which meant we didn’t practice yoga in the morning (we don’t practice on moon days here). We spent our morning off sleeping in (I was in bed until SEVEN!) and sitting out on our balcony, drinking coffee and reading and writing and talking. It was so nice to be able to take a day off…from our vacation. Life is so hard!
It’s unclear how our conversation started, but we must have been out there for hours, discussing our plans once we get home and our deepest hopes for ourselves (always riddled with a bit of fear) and our dreams and the things that might be dreams but we can’t quite be sure of them yet. We talked about what we want for our children, for our country, for our communities and for ourselves. We talked about farms and helping people and homes and jobs and road trips and all of the big questions that loom above our twenty-something heads as we navigate not only this trip but our own personal journeys, our own futures, our own plans.
I have no return flight booked after I walk the Camino de Santiago with my Dad this summer. The end of my trip has always been a question mark — to go to Africa, to travel more around Europe, or to go home? An absence of any plan upon my return to the states made me cling to the idea of prolonging my trip, of doing more. I thought that, maybe, if I kept doing more, experiencing more, seeing more, then the idea would come. I would magically decide how to spend the rest of my life, and return home with renewed purpose and clarity.
What I gained from our conversation on Monday, however, was that it’s okay that I don’t know my next step. It’s okay to be searching, to not have the answers to these lingering questions. And luckily, since my parents are awesome, it’s okay to just go home. I think that for our generation, the importance of going to college and immediately finding a job (not just a job, mind you, but the right job) has been drilled into our heads so much that the idea of embracing uncertainty is rejected, looked down upon, or never considered in the first place.
I had this idea in the back of my head to go to Africa, to see a new continent, to help communities in need. I truly wanted to do good — the bright-eyed, bushy tailed desire to help was strong. But as the dates move closer, and no plans have materialized, I have realized that just going to Africa for the sake of going to Africa may not be the best use of my time or skills or efforts. Is it useless? Of course not. Helping others is never useless. But if I am going to spend a chunk of money getting myself to a remote place for a significant period of time, I want it to come from a sense of purpose.
I think this can be applied to so many things in the rest of our lives. Jobs. Relationships. Social engagements. Whatever. It’s natural do want to quell uncertainty by simply masking it with action, but that’s not always the best way to find an answer. Simply jumping into any and every opportunity I can think of won’t necessarily show me my future by the process of elimination. As Mariel kept saying: It’s okay to take time off. We need to allow ourselves this.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all quit our jobs and wander around in a constant state of self-examination. I was lucky enough to be able to save up and plan for some time off, and I am lucky enough to have friends and family who support my decisions. Not everyone can just up and leave. But we can all cut ourselves some slack and not expect all the answers right away. We can give ourselves time to think and explore and let go of the suffocating expectations with which we burden ourselves. We can allow ourselves to wander a bit.
Not all who wander are lost.