When I came back from Scotland, I knew that I wasn’t done traveling. Life abroad made sense to me. I craved the cobblestone streets, a cold bite to the air, and walking into buildings older than my entire home country. In Edinburgh I fell in love, deeply and foolishly.
However even though I experienced a bit of a culture shock upon returning home, I soon fell back into my normal routine. Those who know me well know that I am a creature of habit, a planner, a bit of a hermit who thrives on consistency; the repetitive cycle of sleep and study that my life back at university provided soothed me. Soon my wanderlust faded from a roar to a whisper as I planned for a life of working, saving, and everything that “adulting” seemed to be.
I transformed from a travelsmith to a workingsmith. After graduating university, I went straight into my summer job as an Orientation Leader; an overall “just okay” experience. A few weeks after finishing that, I transitioned into a full blown “big girl” job, working in an office to a nine to five equivalent. With a good starting salary and work schedule, it seemed as though I was smooth sailing. That is what I thought would happen. I would work for a year, then move to the city and find a new job and work more, and keep working and climbing the ladder until I reached my dream jobs and then I would travel the world again.
Then something snapped. It happened slowly, and then all at once. A dark cloud loomed over, reminding me that my current job was not what I wanted to do. I was constantly bombarded by the hopes, dreams, and goals that I had, for whatever reason, pushed aside in order to pursue a “responsible adult life.” I felt trapped, like I was pushing myself into a mold that didn’t fit me. For two and a half months, I desperately tried and failed to get a grip on my life and attempted to force myself to cope with my situation.
It didn’t work. I was miserable, and everyone around me could see it. Depression and anxiety are demons I am well familiar with, but I had never dealt with them to this extent and with other people knowing about it. I used to pride myself on my ability to conceal my feelings, and so having to deal with everything out in the open was a very painful experience. Despite the support of my friends and family, I felt self conscious and raw. I tried to control my emotions, but ended up pouring them out without being able to stop, growing exponentially angry and disgusted with myself for being so truthful.
Things didn’t exactly start getting better, but rather smarter. I started seeing a therapist, opened up more honestly about my past experiences and feelings, and my family encouraged me to pursue my dreams again and leave my current life behind, reminding me I was too young to not do the things I wanted to do. Now was the time to adventure, explore, and take risks. Scared but desperate, I contemplated ideas and excessively researched ways to escape. Everything from a working holiday to enlisting in the military crossed my mind. However, I continually denied each option, overwhelmed with my current circumstance and unable to think through my future.
Finally, I decided to make a drastic shift. The decision was impulsive and desperate. I quit my job, found a temporary new one, and applied for a six month volunteer abroad program all in the time frame of a few days. None of my decisions “fixed” my emotional turmoil, but they slowly made me feel more confident that I was returning to the person that I wanted to be. So much of my depression was rooted in the idea that I was “mourning the loss of myself,” realizing that I had changed and abandoned my dreams and goals, and most of them not for the better. Returning to a path that allowed me to find myself and be true to it again provided a much needed relief and paused my despair.
“I always wonder why birds choose to stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on earth. Then I ask myself the same question” – Haram Yahya
I write this today to remind others, whether returning from traveling or simply in a moment of crisis after realizing they were not where they thought they would be, that you are in charge of your own life. It does not always feel like it; to me it still does not feel like it, but things can always be done to catapult your life back on the trajectory it is meant to be according to your own ideas. I chose to pursue an option that will likely leave me broke at the end of it, but allows me to be the person I want to be.
The life you have at home will likely be there for you when you return, especially if you are young. So get out and chase after your destiny. Whether its exploring castles in Europe, jungle trekking in Asia, or even as simple as finding a new job in a field that better suits you; what are you waiting for?