“What are you dream?”
I don’t think my English student had any idea of the profound significance and great timing of her question. I temporarily found myself floored and also amazed that even when one or both parties has little knowledge of the language being spoken, our ability to connect on a deep level is very present.
For obvious reasons, I had to respond to her question in as simple a way as possible. And so what is my dream, in the simplest of terms? Easy. To travel and teach.
As soon as the words left my mouth I had a “duh” moment when I realized that this is in fact what I am doing. I am traveling and teaching.
Funny thing is though, that I have consistently been hard on myself almost since I first arrived to Spain for not following my dreams, for failing, and with an ever heavy feeling that I am contributing nothing to my field. For those of you who have followed my many emotional ups and downs throughout my year abroad, I won’t blame you if you roll your eyes. I feel like a tired parrot, constantly squawking about the same things; about feeling like a failure, my struggles to be happy in my present circumstances, my incessant habit of seeking outside of myself for happiness…
With a constant sense of feeling like a failure, I am now trying to overcompensate for those things by being incredibly hard on myself to do everything perfectly, and to be sure to make “the right decision.” Going from one year of very tangible accomplishments (paying off my student loans entirely, conquering my fear of improv and performance by performing with a dance company, creating a new curriculum from scratch) to a year of what I saw as failures, has left me feeling like I have regressed.
But this light bulb moment was exactly what I needed. To sum up my dream in those two simple words was exactly what I needed to do. Did my year happen as I envisioned it would? No. Does that mean that I failed? Absolutely not. I was doing what I had dreamed of doing! Traveling and teaching! But most importantly, I accomplished and learned things that I needed to and that will take me to the next step on my path.
Later in the afternoon, a great conversation with Z helped to open my mind even more and it also helped me to set myself on the path of forgiveness. As he so eloquently put it, “You can’t live your life by always trying to make the ‘right decision.'” And “You can’t write the page for tomorrow without having first written the page for today.”
Our stories are ours for the writing, and as a writer, I should know better than anyone that stories unfold paragraph by paragraph, page by page, and that it goes through many errors along the way.
I have become so focused on the end goal and obsessed with making sure I take the appropriate steps (as deemed by society) in order to get there, that when I strayed from the prescribed path for this year in Spain, I totally flipped out! I have learned that I have these ideals of what things should be like and when they don’t “come up to par” or follow the path I believe they should, I get upset. Ridiculous, right? I know!
What’s interesting is that though I’ve always had these tendencies to plan, strategize and hold myself to high standards, they have almost gotten borderline out of control due to my insecurities and sense of failure of the past year.
And so where do I go from here? Can I just snap out of this and re-learn to appreciate myself and what I did accomplish? No. It’s a day by day process. But I will absolutely, eventually return to that point.
For my second year in Spain, it is up to me and me alone to solidify the sense of independence and confidence in my capabilities that I had started to develop just last summer. I committed all the fuck-ups I needed to last year to learn how to do it even better this year. At the end of the day, we all need a learning curve don’t we?
“Our personality doesn’t determine our happiness or unhappiness. Rather, it is the substance of how we’ve lived that decides our happiness. The purpose of Buddhism and education, as well as all our efforts toward self-improvement and growth, is to enhance that substance. This is what life is all about.” ~Daisaku Ikeda, Discussions on Youth
Are there parts of my personalities that won’t change? Yes. But does that mean that those negative parts and weaknesses need to dominate my life? No. I can bring forth and shed full light on my positive qualities so that they are my dominant life condition. Do I strategize and overplan? Yes. Does it mean I have to do it all the time? No.
So here’s to learning to live in the moment and let life flow. I don’t know where my story will end up, I don’t have any clear dots to connect, but I refuse to build walls around my life and trap myself in a box I have always tried so hard to stay out of.