If you know anything about me, you know that I am one for anniversaries. Today marks six months that I have been back in the United States (and, as an extra tidbit, eleven years since I graduated from college, which is kind of impossible for me to believe!).
This morning, I headed to Harvard Square to check out the first day of the farmer’s market. While the growing season hasn’t really begun, I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous spring day with its warm sun and soft breeze and sit in the Sunken Garden at Radcliffe Yard, one of the hidden treasures of Cambridge.
I had brought along A Joseph Campbell Companion, a compilation of talks given by the famous writer and mythologist. There is so much wisdom in his words, but these particular ones struck me as they resonate with where I am in my life right now:
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
If you had asked me six months ago where I thought I would be today, I would have answered with certainty that I would be planning my return to South America if not already living there! That was the life I planned, that was the idea I clung to, desperately, as I adjusted to life back in Boston, back in Cambridge. I had been the happiest I could remember being while in Peru and traveling in South America, and I was terrified that leaving meant losing that feeling, meant losing the person I had become, meant losing the people with whom I had connected so deeply. I had plans to go back, to resume, to continue where I’d left off.
But through all these feelings, I remembered the biggest lesson I’d learned through my year of volunteering and five months of travel: be present. Being present means letting go, not resisting reality, and making the most out of every moment. It means appreciating all the tiny details, all the simple, perfect moments in your day, and truly engaging with the people in your life. Every time I missed the people I had left behind and the me I had left behind, I took a deep breath and released it. I am here now, and I want to appreciate every moment, because I don’t know what the future holds for me.
And that is why, six months after returning from Peru, I am very open to the possibilities my life has to offer me. I feel I have bounced back from the grief of reverse culture shock and feel just as happy as I did while traveling. It was not easy, and if there is one thing I have learned in the past six months, it is that I have amazing friends. The people who surround me are people who support me and care about me and encourage me, and I feel so lucky to have them in my life. My friends in Boston have helped me embrace life here, while my friends around the world have supported my personal growth as I integrated the lessons from travel into my worldview. Each time I get a message from or hang out with a friend I am reminded how lucky I am to know the people I know.
So that’s where I’m at right now: I don’t have any plans. Of course I have goals and hopes and dreams to keep me moving forward, but I am not grasping on tightly to any one possibility. I am going to see what happens. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this gorgeous New England spring.