lessons

How the dream of travel can hold you back

Recently, I’ve started wondering whether I’ve played some small part, through social media and blogging, in making some people think that the secret to happiness is to go out into the world on a grand adventure. I also wonder if I might have fallen into that trap myself.

For many years now I’ve been convinced that the thing I’m looking for is not happiness; it’s contentedness. Happiness, I now believe, comes in fleeting moments that we should be grateful for. Contentedness is a sustainable state of being: no matter how bad things get, no matter how seemingly routine and boring, no matter how complex, we can still be content.

Travel and adventure are wonderful passions to have. There is so much one can learn about life and about oneself by going out into the world. Travel and adventure have given me rare moments of clarity of mind and heart. They have made me, I feel, more tolerant of others and even of myself. They have given me so much food for thought about faith, politics, human rights, human potential, and what it means to be alive.

There are some things you can only truly learn when you expose yourself and your “givens” to others and to their givens. There are some things you can only truly learn when you shake the foundations of what you thought were truths. Travel is one of many other ways that allows you to do this.

I say this to emphasize that my aim is not to downplay the role travel can play in finding ways to learn and grow. It just isn’t the only way. (more…)

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My Letter to a Younger Me

I turned 46 this year. If I could send a letter back in time to a younger me, this is what I’d write:

 

Nadia, 

You’re about to turn 30. Strap yourself up in your seat belt because it’s about to get really tough.

You’ve already started to see glimpses of how difficult things are going to get.

The unhappiness. The general feeling of discontent. The loneliness. Feeling lost about almost everything.

All that gets worse. Much much worse.

Prepare yourself for a long period of darkness. You will feel like you are drowning. Every now and then you’ll find a straw, you will grab onto it thinking it will pull you back to the surface only to discover it’s a thorn. You will be pricked, you will have to let go of the thorn, and you will sink ever deeper.

Things will get so bad at one point that, for the first and only time in your life, you will briefly consider ending it. Breathe. Let the moment pass. It will.

You will call out for help. You will explain, using all the words you can find, what ails you. You will be clear that you need professional help. The people who matter, who can help, will hear you. But they will not be listening.

You will look around you and not know whom to trust. You will have many people around you, but you will feel as if you are alone in a stark, empty desert. (more…)

The Meaning of Life

I’ve been thinking about life a lot lately. I look at my own life and wonder if it has much meaning. It has meaning to me, of course. But does it have meaning beyond me? Will my brief existence on Earth have any meaningful short-term or long-term impact? Is it important that it does?

Life is such a strange thing.

There are points in every one of our lives where it just simply takes our breath away. These are different for each of us. They could be in the ecstasy of passing a difficult exam at school, or in the miraculous moments of giving birth to a child, or while standing on a mountain top, or while sitting with a dear friend, drinking tea on a long cold night, and laughing from the bottom of your hearts while remembering days gone by.

There are other points in every one of our lives when we are enveloped by a darkness we may think will never end: the death of a loved one, being unemployed, losing everything in a natural disaster, or, for some, simply failing an important exam at school.

And there are all the ups and downs in between: (more…)

Some Things I Can Only Think I’ve Learned About Life

Some things I think I’ve learned about life (as of May 14, 2013):

  • The only way to succeed big is to fail even bigger. Don’t let your failures turn you off from achieving success. Failure is a normal step on the road to success. Work hard, fail, brush your self off, stand back up, learn from your failure, and work even harder. Success will come and will be all the sweeter.
  • Don’t make happiness in life one of your goals. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes. Learn how to feel content no matter what life deals you. It’s all good: the rough times and the happy times. They all mold you into a stronger and more mature human being.
  • Never make life choices in order to please someone else. This is your life to live. That someone else has made their own choices. But know: choosing to live your life to please someone else, when you do it, is YOUR choice. If you’ve been trying to please someone else, blame only yourself. (more…)