Today marks the 10-year anniversary since I flew away from my hometown and family cocoon to experience the world on my own. Ten years since I spread my wings, started to travel and, inevitably, to change. These past 10 years have taken me on 2 continents, living in 5 cities of 4 countries.
These are the 10 major ways in which I changed, for the better, in 10 years.
I have learned to plan less and jump into opportunities more, taking more chances and living more in the today, in the now. The voice of my intuition grew stronger with the years, and I learned to listen to it, against all other “rational” advice I was often voluntarily offered. Going with your intuition is always more realistic, not to mention, more fun!
Like, exactly 10 years ago, when I arrived in my new college town, not knowing a soul there, but being brought there by my intuition that I had to be a writer, and feeling it’s going to be an experience of a lifetime. Or when I quit my corporate-America job a few years ago, not having anything else lined up, but believing I was headed for a better, more fulfilling and more independent future. And, oh, was I!
Having had the sheer luck of meeting people from all 5 continents in the past 10 years, I have learned, through their eyes and stories, that it’s all about perspectives. From Nepal to Australia, from Venezuela to Kenya, to Japan and Argentina, my friends were coming from such different worlds, that arguing about normality was a pure fantasy. There was no right time to have dinner, a right way to celebrate a tradition or a right skin tone. There was no right amount of greeting kisses, or wrong amount of butter in the cooking. I had to simply learn to adapt my perspectives to the daily change, in the web of diversity I was surrounded by.
Somehow, the term “home” gets always glued together with the term “family”. Leaving the home nest 10 years ago, at the beginning felt like I was always in a foreign place; I was always renting, borrowing, using, but was not anymore in my ancestral space. When I expected it less, moving on the other side of the planet, in a small town in rural USA, my second home was brought on to me, in the midst of the warm family of the Jessees. There is where I got to believe, and to know, I could have more than one Home. I learned to extend the meaning of home and since then I have left parts of myself in various homes, around the world.
4. Public Stage
Ten years ago I believed that being serious, both in attitude and in appearance, was a guarantee of acceptance into the exclusivist circle of smartness. Between then and now, I re-learned that it’s smarter to laugh with all your heart because life is too serious to be taken seriously. I understood that we are all acting on the stage of life, and that the best part of the theatre scene is enjoying the ride, together with friends and people who enter my life with their stories.
Being constantly thrown outside my comfort zone for the past 10 years, on average every couple of years, taught me to develop a curious eye and appreciate the new in each situation. Having to change the routines often, got me in the habit of keeping curiosity at a high level, even with familiar places and faces. It almost made me have the eyes of a child, all over again, always asking the question “why”.
Why do the Cubans eat black beans mixed with rice, like I always had in Miami, on my lunch breaks? Why do the unmistakable French eat cheese for desert, like I’ve too much grown into loving?! Routine never settles in, when you ask the question why.
Ten years ago, or less, I didn’t even know I was living in fear, unconsciously keeping it as my road companion. The change came unexpectedly one average, uninteresting day, like it always does. Sitting relaxed on a beach bench, the realization came so fast, rushing towards me, so powerful, that I had to jump up in surprise. Like a fighter in the ring, I suddenly did not see anyone and anything around, living only to kill that fear. And I did. I was finally able to live alone, not lonely, independent and to love it. In the process, I reassuringly learned that fear was only a product of my mind, and not any reality outside of myself.
7. The Big Picture
In the last decade, I learned to see the view from the top. First, country-crossing my way on night trains to get to my college town. No matter how many worries I had through the dark night (like gypsies trying to rob me once, while sleeping), the bright morning would always come, with all its calmness, usually close to my destination.
For the past 6 years, I got to see the view from the top more literally than ever, from the dozens of airplanes I took. I saw with my own eyes that no matter how gloomy the times are, the sun is always there, beyond the clouds. I never again doubted that, after I saw the sunrise twice, on a transatlantic early morning flight.
Society teaches us to look for happiness outside, so we constantly run, like a wheel-mouse to chase the un-chasable. Ten years ago, I “knew” I had to go away from home as far as possible, to find my way and my happiness. In the meantime, I have learned that all I was running away from ran together with me, and to find happiness sometimes you don’t even need to get out of your back yard. I have stopped running and have learned to find and enjoy happiness in the small things, like a sunny morning on the Main river in Frankfurt, Germany, when I least expected it.
When I was preparing to leave the US, after 3 years of living there and having accumulated more than a few objects, I knew I had to leave behind a great deal of things. From souvenirs, and books and old presents and household stuff, I cleaned my house and my baggage. It was an eye opening experience. But I realized that I was taking with me the memories of all of them, of the events surrounding the objects, which was what mattered. I still have the memories, but fewer kilos to pay the extra-baggage for. I learned to travel light, to make room for more memorable moments. After all, life is about doing and sharing, and not about owning and gathering.
10. Dreams & Passions
More than 10 years ago, I heard the saying that if you really wish for something, that dream will come true one day. And I did believe it, but with a hidden seed or two of doubt. After all, when you are a little girl from a poor town in a closed communist country and your dream is to live one day on a tropical island, with palm trees and white sands, you’ve got to have at least a seed of doubt about that, just to prove your mental sanity. But my dreams had a way of their own of becoming reality and showing me I’d better watch out what I’m dreaming of, since impossible is, really, nothing but a helpless word.
Ten years ago I had a blurry idea of what my passion was and what I could do with it. Today I know what it is, and most of all, I know that life is made to live my passions. I dare to work hard at it to turn it into an everyday living. Now I know that it’s all about what you dream and all about what you truly love. The rest, just discipline.
Ten years ago I was embarking on that proverbial initiating journey outside the parental home, which proved to be a waving rollercoaster of fun. Today, after all that learning and un-learning, archiving of old memories to make space for new ones; changing world views and dreams, I am left thinking how much of myself is still the same person I was 10 years ago?