Oddly enough a big part of what this trip is about is to figure out what to do when it ends. Before we left I boiled down my number one goal; I want to find a vocation on this trip. Happily, as we´ve been putting miles behind us, I´m starting to unravel the meaning of the years since I last seriously travelled and am finding glowing insights in the threads.
Throughout much of my time at university I followed a sort of inner lit path. I had a vague but solid sense of who I wanted to be after I graduated so I let that thought guide me in my individual day to day life. I wanted to tackle environmental issues and I wanted to do it from a worldly technical perspective. With a vision of what I wanted to know, how to put together a building that does little damage to the environment, it became really easy to choose and pay attention in classes. With a vision of what I wanted to see, an ecohouse on campus, I could find other like minded people that shared that vision. When it came time to apply for grants to live abroad I could easily write out my daydreams and the world generously responded.
When I approached finally graduating, confident that I´d easily step into a well paying ideal job, I buried myself in debt travelling.
I didn´t know exactly what I was looking for so I prettied up my resume put it on the internet assuming that my ideal job would find me. I was very hopeful, but kept things vague to keep my options open. I imagined I´d be happy to work designing wind-turbines, environmental buildings, government policy, or even teaching kids about eco-issues. Whatever, really. I didn´t even know what type of life I was looking for, nor where. I didn´t think I wanted to join the suit-clad army in Americas cubicles but at the same time I didn´t really have any idea of what else I wanted to do.
I couldn´t barely concieve of what else I wanted to do but didn´t think it mattered that much. I assumed I should just get something, and the rest would make sense along the way. I started out hopeful but slowly learned the lesson many of my generation did in the post dot com boom world. Jobs alone were hard to come by, let alone good ones.
I was living in my Mother and Toms basement at the time, slowly but surely getting more depressed by the day. I worked as a temp doing data entry and then as a CAD monkey to the only people I could convince to hire me. I´d send out vaguer and vaguer resumes to an ever expanding breadth of jobs. The light I´d steered by through college got dimmer and dimmer until it was impossible to navigate by. My day to day decisions were driven towards short term directions and no longer any long term destinations.
At my lowest point I was downsized from the job I was doing and cut loose into the world without any real sense of who I was anymore let alone what I should do. The universe took pity on me, and gave me a piece of luck that I truthfully didn´t earn. Through a family friend I got an excellent job with people I really liked in a really wonderful part of the US. I still wasn´t working in my ideal field but I found myself living a good life. Slowly, and still without a vision of where I wanted to go, I clawed up out of the depths of my depression.
I met some great friends and lived in an area hopping with energy. At work I was blessed with a situation where, while I had a day to day direction of what I needed to do, I was offered an opportunity to expand it in any direction I had the capacity to. I was living in an area so civic minded and so congizant of issues I care about that it´d have been easy to join or start any movement I cared about. And to my shame, and dissappointment, I didn´t to either. I made halfhearted motions towards the daydreams I had in college, went to a green building conference and applied for a couple projects. But I still lacked a destination to drive to and without that I muddled through and instead focused on making my days in Massachusetts both acceptable and pleasant.
"Your work parallels your life, but in the sense of a glass full of water where people look at it and say, 'Oh, the water's the same shape as the glass!"
-Francis Ford Coppola
After I finally pulled out of my rut I didn´t really start moving again because I still lacked a light to guide me. While continuing to live a good life I realized that because I wasn´t moving I caught myself sinking, ever so slowly, into a new rut. I was fortunate enough to see this new depression of my own making coming on the distant horizon but had no idea what to do about it. I still had no destination so knew no way to steer into any new direction. So, desperate for a solution before things got desperate I decided to reboot and start over.
"Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers."
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Hence, this morning I woke up jobless, homeless, a couple thousand miles from my nearest base of friends and family but profoundly happy in Central America.
"It's necessary to be slightly underemployed if you are to do something significant." -James Watson
The story doesn´t end here. In fact, in some really important ways, it begins here. One of the joys of travelling with Tyler is that unless we´re careful we can spend entire days volleying perspectives on lifes philosophy back and forth while strolling through exotic streets. One night in western Honduras, in particular, Tyler and I sat at a restaurant drinking beer, eating fresh shrimp and started teasing out this particular dilemma.
Before long we´d started referring to two different metholodogies about approacing life as destinations and directions. Destination is a long term goal, an idealized vision (ie. Our vague plan to make it to southern South America). Direction, on the other hand, is that path one takes day to day often due to neccesity (ie. Whenever we leave a place we go generally south). When the direction is defined by the destination it´s easy to know what to do next. And then, when you know you are on roughly the right path it´s easy to relax, pay attention to the world around and enjoy the ride. When all we have is a direction, and no destination, every moment loses some magic. In other words, its not living deliberately.
That, in a nutshell, was where I went wrong. Far too easily I let my vision of who I wanted to be slip away when trying to fit into Life After College. I let my dreams fade so I could more easily fit into any mold thinking that made me a better candidate.
Of course I still needed to do something, and to get some sort of job even if it wasn´t clear how it´d fit into my wider destinations. If it´s all I´ve got, earning enough money to live is a step in the right direction to almost any destination. And if my destination wasn´t immediately apparent in what I was getting paid to do, it should´ve been in what I devoted my own time towards. In the evenings after work I should´ve been designing and actually drawing the eco-houses I daydream about. I should´ve been writing the book I´ve been talking about for years. I don´t know how this would´ve added up to anything different, but in my heart of hearts I´m dead certain it will.
"...Listen, Kamala, when you throw a stone into the water, it finds the quickest way to the bottom of the water. It is the same when Siddhartha has an aim, goal. Siddhartha does nothing; he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he goes through the affairs of the world like the stone through the water, without doing anything, without bestirring himself; he is drawn and lets himself fall. He is drawn by his goal, for he does not allow anything to enter his mind which opposes his goal. That is what Siddhartha learned from the Samanas. It is what fools call magic and what they think is caused by demons. Nothing is caused by demons, there are no demons. Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goal, if he can think, wait, and fast.
The gift of an idealized destination was exactly why I found college so satisfying. And sacrificing it to enter the ´real´world was the biggest mistake I´ve made. So my goal, the destination, for the remainder of this trip has shifted a little. It is time for me to recapture my idealism, update my old daydreams into a clear vision and get ready to hold on tight.
"If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible."