I’ve been lucky this year in that I have had many opportunities to travel with both family and friends. Back in May, the family took a trip to Taipei to visit family with an added side trip to Palau. In July, I took a weekend trip up to NYC to visit Angela, who was an Amgen scholar at Columbia. September led to a mini-trip to the west coast for BMES in Seattle with Oriane. Finally, for fall break, Angela and I made it out to the mountains of NC, visiting Asheville and Lake Lure.
Each time I travel, I come back with memories that I add to my, albeit small, treasure trove of experiences. While I love traveling–the exhilaration of seeing the old and experiencing the new–I find that I’m always equally, if not more so, happy to come back home. One of my favorite essayists Pico Iyer wrote, “no movement made sense unless it had a changelessness beneath it; that all our explorations were only as rich as the still place we brought them back to.” This is precisely how I feel about traveling. The still place–the home–that we bring ourselves back to allows us to really appreciate the things we experience outside of our still place. Not sure if that made sense…I tried writing about this in my journal, which is much more stream of consciousness than what I’m writing just now. Prose to my unedited thoughts follow the pictures.
And I guess we all experience life’s emotions, but they play through in different ways depending on who we are. I didn’t feel like being with anyone and I didn’t feel like being alone in my room so I walked around campus, but then I started to worry that I might be mugged, so I went back to the chapel. And as I was standing in front of the chapel, a cool breeze swept by, and I couldn’t help but notice the dark clouds quickly racing through the sky. They had an orange tint, probably reflecting off the lights shining upon the chapel. In staring at the chapel, I felt so lucky to be here. I am so lucky to be here. Then suddenly I don’t feel attached to my own body—just a spirit floating through the air. And I feel so small, so insignificant yet so at peace. That things will carry on as usual in this world whether I’m here or not. And, pardon the cliche, but it really isn’t about the end destination, but about the journey we take to get there. And my goal in life shouldn’t necessarily be so egocentric, like wanting to be an expert/important in so-and-so field or wanting to be remembered. But that my goal in life should be to experience, to be, to breathe. To experience emotions to my fullest extent. And yes that may mean hurt or anger or frustration, but it also means experiencing joy and peace and fullness and rest. And knowing that things are all right even if I might not know what right is. And I’m feeling overwhelmed with the choices I’ve made and the choices I will have to make. And also feeling so thankful for what I have been provided with and feeling such a sense of belonging. Of belonging to this school, to this community, to these friends I’ve surrounded myself with. I almost want to cry, yet I don’t. I’m not a sentimental person-never have been and doubt I ever will be. But in this moment, I think I know and understand the emotions that sentimental people experience. Of loving some intangible or tangible thing so much that you want to cry…No. It’s a feeling of wanting to freeze this moment in time because I’m afraid that I’ll never feel this at peace and such a sense of belonging to this beautiful school that I now instinctively call home. And wanting to freeze time but knowing that time won’t pause for anyone. And knowing that I should be thankful for each day and each experience. And that I should actually be thankful as I’m living the experience, not being thankful after the fact, but not knowing how be thankful just now. And not knowing if being thankful is adequate enough. And who to be thankful to? To my family? Or to the friends who have made the experience what it is? And do we end up where we are because of some higher plan in the first place or because we shaped our own futures? And do we have destinies? Are we bound to meet the souls that we meet or is it purely by chance? And suddenly I inhale sharply and I’m back standing on my own two feet in my own body and I realize I probably seem so strange. Just a small figure standing in the shadow of our chapel.