High school never really ends
I’ve always had my own way of doing things. Ask my parents (and people I’ve dated in the past–yikes), they’ll tell you all about it. My Dad calls it “tunnel vision.” It’s a big benefit when it comes to work (especially for a writer), and a big drawback when it comes to relationships for sure. But I’m realizing the tendency to over-romanticize that aspect of myself and to recognize that it’s certainly not always the case. I get energy from the group and it’s approval just like anybody else. [There’s lots of good psychology study out there about the socialized mind vs. the self-authoring mind vs. the self-transforming mind (See: Kegan & Lahey)].
In a big group like this (57 of us now), I constantly feel myself toggling between that the part of me that wants to “do all the things with all the people” (my socialized mind) and the part of me that wants to do my own things (my self-authoring mind). The hybrid of the two being the self-transforming mind that constantly balances and holds those two competing minds in synergistic tension. In other words, how do you balance being a part of a community with being an individual? It’s a question that brings you right back to your high school self when that tension probably loomed larger than ever and felt so very grave.
“High school never really ends,” a friend from back home said to me the other day. I feel that in a real way when I reflect on how we often socialize with each other as so-called adults. It’s important to check oneself in order to understand when you’re acting out of status anxiety (a GREAT book by the way) versus when you’re balancing your various minds in a growth-oriented fashion.
It’s not easy.
How much can you pack into a month?
The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are. -Fernando Pessoa
I sat down for a moment and poured through the pictures from the last month in Lisbon. My first thought: I did so much stuff. Two friends visited me. Lots of dancing at PARK. Street art and museum art. Ocean views in Cascais. Castles errywhere. Got my face painted the colors of the Portuguese flag. Portugal then won the Eurocup (clearly related).
Got to know a great new co-working space (Beta-i) and the community there. Started a new job. Volunteered removing tags on street art. Electronic brunch in the park. Hiked to Portugal’s highest point. Dined in its finest small village restaurants in a glacial valley. Read the poetry of Portugal’s poet laureate. Explored Porto, it’s 2nd city by the River Duoro. Danced some more. Took a day trip (before work) to Sintra, a world heritage site, and explored Quinta da Regaleira and its winding tunnels and gardens. Played football (soccer). Did some community service with a local nonprofit that helps feed food insecure individuals. Hopped on a plane and left for Morocco.
After all of that, a month that most people back home either never get to experience or would give a left arm for, part of me still felt like it wasn’t enough. I missed out on surfing. I didn’t go climbing. I didn’t go to Lagos. So much FOMO! With a journey like this, it is so easy to just constantly receive stimuli but never take time to pause and reflect on what’s actually going on: an amazing life is being lived.
A particular style of travel
Remote Year promotes a certain style of travel, by its very design. To state it simply, it gives you constant FOMO. 12 months of FOMO. When you have just one month in an amazing place, you’re implicitly encouraged to squeeze the most nectar out of the month. This is really good to some extent because it forces you to hustle a bit and get out of your comfort zone. Most people benefit from that push, I’d say. I get so much energy and am continually impressed with this group’s zeal for new experiences. It pushes me to get out of the house, do more, see more, be more, try harder, think bigger, learn new things, connect with others in ways my deep internal introvert might not otherwise support.
The flip side is that it (the style of travel) can be a bit unnatural. And there’s always a danger in too much of a good thing. One danger that I’ve seen is a culture of constantly striving for the “better deal,” sometimes to the detriment of the community. This looks like backing out of commitments (soft or hard) for a cheaper side trip or anything more desirable, leaving the program all together because “I can do it cheaper” (yet still benefiting from others paying the regular fee and essentially subsidizing the existence of the community for the hangers-on), and other variations on the same theme. It’s something I worry about with millennials (my generation), how we’ve been first and foremost socialized as consumers of “things” rather than members of communities.
As I sit here on our first day in Morocco, I’m working to internalize and practice the nugget of wisdom inside yet another Pessoa quote:
“The value of things is not the time they last, but the intensity with which they occur. That is why there are unforgettable moments and unique people!”
How can I do things for their (hopefully positive) impact (on me and others) more so than just checking off the box? One big part of that for me is clarifying and sticking to my own personal goals while still upholding my commitment to the community. There’s a constant pull by the community, it’s strong and it’s real. How do I create the pull within myself that is tied to personal and professional goals and is just as strong? What does having a truly self-transforming mind look and feel like?
Maybe a month in Morocco will provide some answers.