I’m sure there are big things that I’ll look back on in however many years and attribute to this [nearly] year I devoted to seeing the world. In foresight, I’m grateful because I can’t think of a piece I’d rather be placing in the puzzle of who I am becoming… But I’m also grateful right this second. I’m in the back of the family CRV driving the 16 hour journey home from Seaside, Oregon and for the first time since we first came over a decade ago, I’m marvelling at the scenery. The lush greenery leading up rigid peaks to the East and rolling hills of golden grass past the Columbia river to the West. We’re breaking the drive to two days, 8 hours a day, toilet breaks, food stops, lingering salt water taffy…compared to 24 hours with a squat toilet and Asians just a little too comfortable with bodily functions, I’m laughing.
The 8th and final semester of my Human Ecology degree was the most important to my degree. Not because it literally determined whether or not I’d get the 40,000 dollar piece of paper, but because it all started to make sense. Not to say I was in the dark for four years, but I always felt like I was going through motions, learning semi-useful theory, and doubting my post-graduation opportunities. In that final semester every presentation I made seemed a little easier, each paper contained ‘aha!’ inclusions from research done in other classes, and most importantly I finally integrated my core values with the profession of Human Ecology.
Academically it all started to mix, but that final component followed an assignment to write our mission and vision as practitioners. I’ve had jobs with a couple big ‘brand’ companies; mission statements weren’t a new concept, in fact I was sure I’d find a perfectly cheesy tag line to satisfy the passing criteria easily. But when I sat at my computer type out a simple sentence for 5% of a 4th year course, I was stumped. I felt like I had to choose in that moment what I wanted to do with my life because mission statements are goal specific. So if I chose to pursue HR it should be about recruiting, targets, development…but a position in cancer care should be about compassion, support, and empowerment. In writing this simple (changeable) statement, I felt I was choosing my career path forever. Obviously I wasn’t.
My personal values weren’t conflicted, I just didn’t understand until the eleventh hour what my whole degree really meant. If ‘Human Ecology’ were greek and I were giving you that disproportionately long translation, I would say it means ‘it’s all connected’. And when I stopped writing company mission statements and started writing my own I realized that no matter what career I was targeting it at, it turned out the same. Go figure. I strive to empower individuals and communities to achieve their highest potential through providing accessible resources, inspiring education, and being a role model for integrity. Sure, a recruiter may want to hear about my success in achieving sales targets for business versus my volunteering and understanding of families for patient care…but in terms of my personal attitude and intention towards what I’m doing, that’s all same same but different.
The last couple months of travel have been sort of like that last semester; every weird moment, accident, and world wonder fit together in just the right order for me to experience situations and meet people at just the right time so that in the end the ‘why’s melted away and my confidence that I was meant to do it all is unwavering.
I’ve been in Oregon with family for the past week in what a friend of mine referred to as a state of suspension. I’m not home, but I’m not still travelling; I’m with family, but not friends; it’s familiar, but not home. It’s a pleasant yet potentially detrimental place for introspection (…and job searching) . It has been good though, to condense my whole ‘speech’ before meeting the masses and facing job interviews.
As I drafted cover letters I found myself doing the same thing I did with my mission statement over a year ago. Using ‘organization, adaptability, cultural awareness’ on business letters and ‘empathy, understanding, humanity’ on patient care positions…then I stopped. I took a step back and thought about what nearly a year, 4 sub-continents, and hundreds of people met ultimately meant for me…hoping that it would be something a little more profound than characteristics I could get just as well from being part of multi-racial school club or petting some cats at the SPCA. What I’ve decided is this: travelling has shown me the value of an open mind and heart; an openness that empathizes with needs, appreciates all perspectives, and recognizes every opportunity for growth.
Sure, there are other great by-products to travel like Aladdin pants, bargaining skills, using a squat toilet, or knowing how to describe the taste of zebra…but in the end, even the less lame things like saying yes when you would say no, acting with right intention, letting go of outcomes, and recognizing the contentment that can in fact be found in simplicity all lead back to having an open heart and mind. I would have heard every golden nugget of advice or food for thought just for being in the right place at the right time. It was the openness that allowed me to accept, processes, and live it.
So, when I really think about it…after a month of Yoga Teacher Training, making my body (and probably my heart) as physically open as it’s ever been….it’s really no coincidence that the months following were when it all ‘came together’. Whether we realize or not, our discomforts arise from a lack of openness, in hips or in life…
Carolyn said on day one of training, “People are happier when they do yoga”. I heard it, I smiled, and thought of my own superficial benefits from practicing asana. Somehow though, in this state of suspension it has returned to me and I’ve brought it all together. You know how they say body language says it all…like if you’re standing in a circle, your feet and hips may point to who you’re most interested in…duh, it’s in cosmo…maybe right, maybe that’s the angle your blisters don’t hurt in. What is true though is that the more open your body is, the more open you are. Your posture improves so your aura can shine bright and you are open to receive the love and opportunities headed your way. Years of running will produce tight hips, it doesn’t make you a close minded person. However, in working through the tightness physically you are allowing yourself a greater range of comfortable motion which subconsciously is mirrored by the heart and mind.
So my friends, travel young…not because you can’t travel old, but because you will have that many more years to share your stories, see things more openly, and go again. And do yoga. Stick with it. Trust me.