Friday, April 24, 2009

Prepping for Departure...

I'm staring my departure in the face now with exactly two weeks left in Greece. The light (or maybe darkness?) is now visible at the end of the tunnel. In the very near future I'm going to be forced to deal with a lot of emotional issues, so I'm preparing myself now. I'm starting to sift through all my past experiences, spend more time with the friends that I've made, and construct what I'm calling my "departure strategy."

Here's what I've been thinking:

I've had extraordinary experiences here. I've learned so much. I've grown so much. I've gotten many steps closer to becoming the kind of person I want to be someday. I'm scared to death of coming home for that reason. I'm afraid that when I go home, I'll just become the person I used to be and forget all about who I became in Greece, all the people I met along the way, and all the lessons I learned. I know that people will probably expect me to be the same and that it will be a lot easier to just sink back into the old habits than it will be to create new ones, new friendships, new outlooks on the same things. That's a paralyzing fear for me. Maybe I'm not strong enough to keep up this new pattern in the face of old expectations.

So here's my strategy.

If I encounter Springfield, my family, my friends, my professors, everything, like it's brand new and I'm experiencing it all again for the first time (because really I am. I'm seeing it all with new eyes), then this problem will seem much smaller. No longer will I see myself trying to fit into the "old world" which has expectations for me. I'm a new person, and I should expect to visit the same old places like a traveler, like a tourist of sorts, finding a whole new place for myself once again. Every day should look like a new day, every thing should be seen with fresh eyes. In this way, I'm not a victim of previous circumstances. That seems like it will be simple enough, I suppose. I just have to constantly think about it for a few weeks once I'm back.

I think my big problem is going to be facing depression at leaving behind all of these amazing people, places, and experiences in Greece. The task of continuing to be the person I have learned to be while here in Greece seems easy compared to the task of not being upset that I've left so much behind.

The same strategy that I've devised to deal with maintaining my new character changes when back in Springfield extends to this problem too.

If I see life as a journey, all of it, without boundaries and home bases, the playing field is leveled between Springfield and Greece. Even if I were to sit in Springfield for my whole life, things would change. People would come and go. Nothing in life ever stays constant, so really this trip isn't bringing anything new to my attention. It's just making it more prominent. So I can either refuse to accept this fact and be angry at the constantly changing world my whole life, or I can peacefully come to terms with it and learn how to fit my experiences in Greece in with that mindset. I choose option two.

What that means in practicality is that I have to learn how to see my experiences in Greece not as something I experienced once and have since left behind, but rather as something that happened to me and is now part of who I am. I carry it with me always, as I do EVERY experience in my life. Greece perhaps had a greater impact on me than the rest due to its intensity, but that doesn't mean I have to regret leaving. It also doesn't mean I can't learn to experience every day in Springfield the same way as I did my time in a foreign country. Again, I get to choose.

So here's the moral of the story, and this is probably one of the biggest lessons I've learned while here in Greece: We construct much of our reality. If we acknowledge that fact, we are in a position to control how that reality is constructed in many ways. And seeing as our happiness depends on the way we interpret the experiences we have, we are largely in control of whether or not we are happy.

I hope this actually works when I get back. Theories tend to shift, or sometimes collapse, in the face of reality. Time will tell!

I hope you are all well and interpreting life optimistically wherever you are and whatever you're facing!


Mozart said...


Anonymous said...

You are right when you say we define borders, fences, and territories in a way that makes sense for us. We are content and inspired when the ride is fun, when new things are consistantly happening.

But thats not the whole of life. It's sitting back and bobbing along as much as it riding the rapids.

Greece will change you... experience in general, will change you. What we do with those experiences, no matter how vivid or how generalised they become is up to us.

I dont think you can tightly grasp and remember all the moments you are making. Thats what makes them sweet and honored... they are passing. But that doesnt mean the rest of life, or the best of it is now, and forever leaving you behind.

Look forward. The significant things in our lives get hard wired into our spiritual DNA... you dont have to cling to whats already a part of you.