I keep reading things right when I need to; I think there’s a higher power that draws me to certain words at all-too-perfect times in my life. For example, I recently started reading a book about a woman’s experience living in Bhutan (a small Buddhist country next to Nepal) and her adjustment to the frustratingly slow lifestyle there. I started reading this book right as I arrived in Namibia, which is probably the slowest-moving place I’ve ever been – each day, I have been waking up expecting to get through the few activities I have planned for the day by noon at the latest, and they end up taking until dinnertime. Had I not started reading that book, I’m not sure I would have found the patience and deep-breathing that it inspired me to have and do; which is really the only way to cope with such cultural differences.
My travel literature class - which has slowly grown on me throughout the semester - has pointed me at times to such fortuitous and applicable words. Last week, just as we were leaving Cape Town, we read an excerpt from Robyn Davidson’s Tracks – the quote I copied above truly encapsulated my experience in South Africa. My time in Cape Town was filled with “moments of pure, uncomplicated confidence,” as she describes those pivotal moments a little later on. I just felt, for the first time in a very long time, like I was – and am – on the right path in my life. Something clicked, and I feel free and happy and lovely again. It’s been a while.
I don’t know what it was exactly. Part of it had to do with the fact that I spent every day there with two of my best friends on the ship, Cate and Julia, with more of my best friends coming in and out of the picture day-to-day. Part of it had to do with the amazing hostel we found ourselves calling home – Ashanti – and some of the people I met there and can honestly say, after just a few days of knowing them, that I love deeply. Part of it had to do with reconnecting with nature and hiking as much as possible and accidentally climbing a mountain and finding myself picnicking on top of it with my two inside-and-out beautiful friends. Part of it was getting to paraglide with a silly man named Jacques and laughing at the impossible fact that I was able to have a full-on conversation in the middle of the sky. Part of it was going on a wine-tour expecting to have a fun but superficial day and ending up having life-changing conversations with people who were more like walking inspirations than human beings. Most of it was all of it together, and realizing how lucky I am to be able to attract the kinds of amazing people into my life that, somehow, I just do. Or have been. Maybe it’s a lucky streak.
Cape Town solidified a feeling for me that’s been building throughout my travels. It brought me back to myself – I’ve been lost for a while. (The song This is Me by Demi Lovato comes to mind here… Just kidding, but not really.) It made me realize what I’ve been holding onto, what I need to let go of, and the kind of person I want to be: I want to be the kind of person who can lead by example, who can share her light instead of holding it back.
American culture teaches us to hold so many things back – thoughts, emotions, how we really feel deep down – to the point where it’s hard to even see those thoughts and emotions anymore. We repress so much that we don’t remember what we have to say. We don’t bring up the issues that we have with our mothers and fathers and sisters and friends – the real ones, the ones that leave a pit in our stomachs but that rarely materialize as real words in our minds; we don’t acknowledge how much we appreciate and love them enough either. We move through our busy days, stone-faced or superficially happy, rarely letting ourselves just be real and holding in things that, even if they come from a good place, fester within us and soon become poison to our souls. Emerson says: “Society is a masked ball, where every one hides his real character, and reveals it by hiding.” Such is America, unfortunately; it’s the way we’re brought up. We’re taught that acting indifferent is the best way not to get hurt; well, nothing good ever came from apathy. There’s a pure and undeniable beauty in being vulnerable. I’ve grown up a little too real and vulnerable sometimes; but being in Africa reassured me that that’s the only way to a happy and free heart. Africans are warm, and passionate, and loving, and they don’t hold things back; I think their hearts must hurt less that way, and you can just tell.
Anyway, maybe nothing about what I’ve just written makes any sense. Either way, I guess what I’m getting at is that I’ve found a way to embrace my emotions, good and bad. I’ve found a place of self-love that’s taken me so long, and traveling around the world, to find. And it might slip from my hands, and then I’ll have to find it again. That’s okay, though – as I stated maybe ten blog-posts ago, we’re fighters, not winners, and I’m just embracing this small victory before I move on to the next battle.