Monday, January 12, 2009

Making Sense of It All

Back in LA and back to regular school life. I have scarcely had a moment to process all that I have experienced in these past few months. It seems as though I was hardly gone at all. My friends, my apartment, my school. We just picked up from where we left off. But what has changed? What have I learned? I’m not exactly sure.

What I am sure of, and what I have been telling all my friends, is that living abroad is definitely something we should all do if we have a chance. A friend asked me if I experienced the cliche of “discovering myself.” Honestly, I hadn’t thought of it that way, nor do I think any of us will ever finish in the quest for self. But in many respects, my experience fit the cliche.

Living abroad has given me an opportunity to get away from everything that I have known. I left behind the external stimuli of the people, culture, society and surroundings of my current life in LA and of my childhood home in Santa Cruz. By taking me away from everything I’ve known, life abroad gave me a chance to see what I am without it all. I was able to experience what was “me” as opposed to what were products or responses to my surroundings. In this way, I’d have to say that yes, we can travel to find ourselves. But not in the way that many people think.

We do not travel and move in search of some thing that will give us purpose or tell us about ourselves. Instead, just being away from our lives, away from anything that we have learned to associate with and become attached to, gives us a chance to see who we are without those things. Who we are, independent of our friends and comforts and habits. It is not the destination, it isn’t even the journey. It’s about change. The more change we experience, the more we can see what is constant, what is truly part of our own self. Whether or not finding that better sense of self leads to clarity about our “purpose” is beside the point, though it may be a fortuitous consequence for some people. The point is that we gain independence and identity, while reinforcing what is constant and comforting, like home and friends.

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