Once I made the decision to leave to travel, everything happened pretty quickly.
I notified my job, I started to look for a sub lessee for my Los Angeles apartment. I had to move my stuff out in a short period of time. And I sort of just dumped all my shit in my old room at my parents’ house in my hometown, located in the suburbs 40 minutes north of Los Angeles.
I first moved out nearly ten years ago, a wide-eyed, bushy-tailed 18-year-old, when I left for San Diego to attend college.
Five years later I moved to Europe, where I would live alone for the first time – without sisters and parents and roommates – in my quaint little Sliema apartment.
A year later, with two masters degrees under my belt, I moved back to San Diego. A year after that, I found a job in LA and moved in to my apartment in the city. And after a year of working that 9-5 on salary with benefits, I quit it all for a one-way ticket to SE Asia for my next traveling adventure, which would begin nearly a year of living out of a backpack/suitcase.
Fast forward to now.
Now I’m back home, back at my parents’ again. I’m here now to settle for awhile.
It feels so strange. And overwhelming. My heart sank into my stomach when I first stepped into my old room again, where 8 months before I’d dumped all my belongings, transforming what used to be my high school headquarters–late-night studying, teenage crush daydreaming…where I hung my academic awards, sports medals, track ribbons…where I cried over failed friendships, stressed over exams, rejoiced upon receiving my college acceptance letters–into a rather depressing-looking storage unit.
Nearly ten years-worth of possessions, accumulated from numerous life stages and phases, piled in an overwhelming heap before me.
Welp, back at square one.
Why do I feel like my life has come full circle…(but not in a good way)?
When I self-reflect, when I look at myself in the mirror and seriously evaluate my experiences and my path, it’s not long before I acknowledge that my disappointment is based on dumb external opinions, expectations and fake rules.
After you graduate from high school, you’re supposed to be gone. You’re never supposed to come home.
You’re supposed to be too busy being successful with your grown-up life–graduating from college, scoring that fancy job, making money, meeting the future spouse, balling off that joint income, marrying that spouse, having babies–to ever return. You’re not supposed to come home. You’re not supposed to live with mom and dad anymore.
Yet here I am.
But it’s not like I never left. In fact, I’ve done a lot more leaving than most.
And I’ll be honest, when people want to hate on where I am in my life, my gut/ego reaction is to be like, “Yeah whatever, my LIFE EXPERIENCE makes me:
(But my mom told me I come off as a complete jerk when I think that way…and she’s right.)
Everyone’s path is different. But one thing I can say for myself is that the decisions that have led me to stray off that path are the ones that have truly enriched my life and made me a better, more openminded person.
When I think of my dad, (who has the best stories I have never heard in my life, who has f*cking lived) what has his life been made up of? What are the things he remembers?
“So I decided against quitting my job to travel the world, but I got a really sweet raise!”
“Yeah, when my friends decided to take off on a road trip across the country, I decided to just stay home to snag that promotion.”
In my opinion, it’s the risks that make life what it should be. It’s the grand adventures. It’s the failures, it’s the setbacks. They are turning points that have led to the best moments of my life.
It’s not to say I don’t want to settle from time to time, even if just for a few years. Build a foundation. Grow roots. Take time to master my craft and be successful. That’s what I’m doing now.
But landing back at home doesn’t mean I’m a failure. It just means that the reality of taking risks and traveling takes sacrifice, costs money, and sometimes sets a sister back to the point where maybe she needs to reel it back, recuperate and reenergize (and start building funds to do it again).
Plus, I am blessed to be so close to my parents.
Every day I spend with my mom…working with her, taking stress off her shoulders, watching Forensic Files episode after episode…is worth it. Every day I spend with my dad…watching the World Cup, impromptu dance parties at commercial breaks, running errands together in matching Birkenstocks…are moments I truly cherish. That I was meant to come home to build and store. I won’t be here forever, but I will take advantage of this time I’ve been granted.
I recently heard a snippet from a Steve Jobs graduation speech from 1982 that seriously moved me, and I want to share it with you:
Sorta wanna be careful about [the rags and riches story] because there’s a lot of people that have been real successful in other terms that aren’t here, because maybe they didn’t make a lot of money, that you want to listen to very carefully. And one of the things that tends to run through some of the things that people here have talked about is innovation and creativity. Have you ever thought about what it is to be intelligent?
…the key thing is that if you’re gonna make connections which are innovative, to connect two experiences together, that you have to not have the same bag of experiences as everyone else does, or else you’re going to make the same connections, and then you won’t be innovative…
So, what you gotta do, is get different experiences than the normal course of events. And, one of the funny things about being bright is everyone puts you on this path, you know, to go to high school, go to college…
I heard about some kid that’s 14 on his way to Stanford, and that’s great. That’s sort of out of the ordinary, but you might want to think about going to Paris and being a poet for a few years. Or might wanna go to a third-world country. I’d highly advise that, and see people and leppers with their hands falling off and all that stuff. It’s very much so worth doing. You know, fall in love with two people at once. You know…
You can go hear stories about all these [successful] people, and the key thing that comes through is that they had a variety of experiences which they could draw upon in order to try to solve a problem or attack a particular dilemma in a kind of unique way. And so one of the things that you’ll get a lot of pressure to do is to go in one very clear direction, and believe in God and all that other stuff, and that’s great. But don’t ever walk by a Zen Buddhist because of that. Sit down and talk and buy him lunch.
Don’t ever be ashamed of your journey. Don’t ever try to compare to others and use that criteria to categorize yourself as a failure. Keep living, keep experiencing. Find the silver lining as you hit the bumps, sink into the ruts. Keep hopeful during the uphill climbs. Keep following your heart and working hard. Stay curious. Keep being good to people.
Measure success on your own terms. Make sure it’s based on the things that truly make you happy.