After quitting my job in December and before hopping a plane to India, my future felt promising but unstable, exciting but vague. I had left corporate America (thank God) and had at least a few months of traveling ahead of me. I had the world at my feet! I had a chunk of change with which to travel after saving for months. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I was excited. And I was scared to death.
The catch is this: with no responsibilities, no job, nothing holding me back (other than my own fear), I could do whatever I wanted. But that meant that I had to figure out what I wanted to do. And when there’s a world of possibilities out there for you, finding the right one can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. A lovely problem to have, for sure, but daunting nonetheless.
We’ve all been urged by various people (and greeting cards) to “follow our bliss”. But what’s a girl to do if she doesn’t know what her bliss is? Without an answer to this question, it’s easy to fall back on opportunities that are safe. Fool-proof. Easily accessible.
The idea of searching the world to find that thing that makes you come alive is scary. Because what if you don’t find it? That question alone is enough to keep someone in their comfort zone for the rest of time. Fear of failure and fear of the unknown are paralyzing.
The act of traveling has already taught me so much over the past eight weeks. And the most reassuring lesson has been that I needed this. I needed to see the world, to explore and question and prove myself wrong and experience new places and cultures and tastes and ideas and dreams. I needed the time to think.
On this trip, I get to be a kid again. In part because I can have as much candy as I want and I get to stay up past my bedtime watching TV, but most importantly because I get to play the “what do I want to be when I grow up?” game on a daily basis. The answers change weekly – sometimes daily – and it’s been a great exercise to observe these ideas, embrace them, let them pass and let new ones appear without feeling guilty for not having all the answers just yet.
It seems like a lot of other twentysomethings find themselves restless and searching for similar answers. We’ve been told our whole lives that we should get the best education possible and that our education should result in the best job possible. When we end up in an office and we’re miserable and we’re not sure why because we’ve been told that this is what we should want, it’s a bit discouraging. And confusing. And finding a different solution, or sacrificing a nice big paycheck for more freedom and happiness, is difficult. But if we don’t find a way to explore our world – be it through travel or reading or pursuing new hobbies or self-examination – we’ll never find the bliss that we want to call our own. And we certainly can’t follow it.
I still don’t have the answers to all of my questions. I never will. But I’ve learned to pay attention to certain things: to pay attention to the things that make me excited and the experiences that peak my curiosity. The days where I get wild ideas about the future and the random occurrences that make me giggle uncontrollably. The questions I want to ask locals over and over again, and the types of people I’m drawn to. Those new friends I meet whose jobs make me painfully, sinfully jealous. I like to think of them all as pieces to the puzzle or clues on a scavenger hunt, each one valuable and meaningful in finding my way.
With each new city I visit and each new experience that I can tuck into my little pocket of memories, I feel myself moving closer to whatever it is I’m searching for: meaningful work, a place to settle, a comprehensive outlook on life. Whatever. But I’m also loving the journey. And it’s not just because I get to see the world; it’s because I get to see myself with new eyes. The view is always changing, and I can only have faith that someday things will suddenly become very clear. Until then, all I can do is stay alert and enjoy the ride.