“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
I spent the last three months living and volunteering in Guatemala; the country that has turned into one of my favorite places on this earth. Before that, I spent months researching volunteer programs, searching for the one that would be the best fit for me on my latitudes semester. Before that, I met 12 amazing people in an airport in California in the middle of the night and embarked on a three month journey with them through Central America. Before that, I was a senior in high school with no idea what I wanted to do after a graduated, let alone the rest of my life. I was confused, scared, and sad, and I didn’t know who I was. So I decided that maybe this ‘gap year’ idea would lead me on the road to self discovery, and I would find my joy and purpose among the beauty and simplicity of Central America.
I was wrong.
Now that’s not to say that I didn’t love the places I’ve been and the experiences I’ve had this year, but they didn’t open some magical door that lead me to all the answers I’d been seeking. Quite the opposite really. Over the course of this year, I’ve only had to ask myself more questions. I’ve questioned my own motives and morality. I’ve questioned the people I spent most of my life looking up to. I spent a long while asking myself whether it was selfish of me to want to pursue a college degree instead of devoting as much of my time to volunteering as possible. In addition to these (and other) new questions that became a constant presence at the forefront of my mind, the old questions that brought me on this gap year in the first place were still circling in the background. I spent a good amount of this year either searching for the answers to the questions floating around in my head or waiting for the answers to come to me. Instead, I realized something else. Not all at once or in a specific ‘Aha!’ moment, but rather slowly and in pieces. I might not ever know what the ‘right’ answer is, and there very well may not even be one. And, most importantly, I realized that that’s okay.
The choices I make will shape my life and lead me somewhere, but there are countless possibilities and so many good outcomes. Life is not black or white; right or wrong; good or bad. Time spent stressing over finding the perfect path is time wasted, because there is no perfect path. And as I reread what I’ve written so far, I’m realizing that I’ve heard people saying this for pretty much my entire life. You, reading this now, have probably heard a million people telling you the same thing. Maybe you’re thinking, “Yeah of course life isn’t black and white. This girl is an idiot.” I don’t blame you. I thought the same thing every time I heard people talking like this. And I think that’s because we all have to experience it for ourselves in our own way for it to really make sense. It has to find its way into your story to finally connect with you.
So I guess what I’m saying is go out and ask your questions and look for answers. See where they take you, and see what you find. Write your own story and shape your own life. But sometimes, put the pen down and let it write itself. I can promise you that those will be your favorite parts to go back and read.
All my love,