Lessons from the Halfway Mark

16 Mar

No, I’m not halfway done with the AT.  Supersonic speed still eludes me.

What does not elude me is the march of time.  I’m halfway done with my year off — or, as I’ve dubbed it most recently: “my one year escape from the real world.”  “So, like, what would you say you have learned?”, the voice of my Aunt Leslie booms through my cell phone receiver as she crunches down on a Medifast bar.

Looking out a bus window in Australia.  It captures perfectly this feeling that the world is whizzing by, and we're just trying to grab a piece of it.

Looking out a bus window in Australia. It captures this feeling that the world is whizzing by, and we’re just trying to grab a piece of it.

Ummhh, well.  It’s hard to sum up the lessons of 4 months of solo backpacking Asia and the Pacific, 2 months of rehabbing my ankle while raising a puppy in the metro DC area, and a week-plus stay at a silent meditation cult in bumfart Canada.  But, if I had to try:

1.  I have learned… a few new prayers.  I’ve said a few during the last six months (except, I will note, during my time at the meditation cult when prayer was BANNED — yes, still traumatized; will write about it… next century).  A sampling:

  • “God, please don’t let me [expletive] up.”  
  • “God, please preserve my sanity in spite of the craziness happening around me right now.”  
  • “God, please sustain the lift beneath this airplane right now.”

2.  I have learned… that Thornton Wilder (whoever he is) said one of the truest things ever said:  “It’s when you’re safe at home that you wish you were having an adventure; when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.”  One of the great — and frustrating — truths of adventure.

3.  I have learned… to see myself differently.  Before (on an admittedly self-indulgent level), I pictured myself as a strong, independent person who has pulled it all together and, like a phoenix, risen from the ashes of life’s sorrows.  But now, when I look in the mirror, I see just another broken person, like all those who walk around me — the prostitutes and the johns and the vacationing families and the other backpackers (or, that’s who was walking around me in Thailand, when this thought first skipped acrossed my mind).  I am broken; we are all broken, in some sense.  And there is a unity in that brokenness that binds us together.  That feeling, racing through your veins, is the antidote to so much — expectation and perfection, fear and inadequacy, judgment and envy alike.  It restores our humanity.

4.  I have learned… the difference between confidence and self-confidence.  Before, I was confident in my ability to succeed at various things.  I strode into job interviews and dodgeball leagues with confidence.  But, I’ve realized, I lacked self-confidence because — if it came to it in the end — I couldn’t weather the storm of failure.  The disapproval of others was hail to my psyche.  It’s like: I bet on the racehorse and I piloted the racehorse, but — at the end of the the day — I didn’t own the racehorse.  Because I didn’t love it no matter what.

You can be really confident and yet lack self-confidence.  The latter — self-confidence — is the tricky one.  It happens at home underneath your covers after you’ve royally messed up.  Botched a work project.  Completely embarrassed yourself in a social setting.  Ate multiple pints of Ben and Jerry’s in one sitting.

5.  I have learned… that — no matter what they say — you can’t enjoy the ride until you believe that everything is going to be okay at the end.  [Note: this is particularly true with airplane flights.]  Six months into this big journey to “figure it all out,” I have figured out little beyond the best way to get gored by a rhino and that Germans are good kissers.

Recently, I had dinner with a friend who queried me about how my life was going to look 5 or 10 years from now.  My reply: “I haven’t got the faintest, foggiest clue.  When I am able to wrest the drunk goggles from my face, I will let you know.”

She looked at me, and she said what I never really knew until she said it.  She said: “It doesn’t matter.  Because whatever happens,

You are going to have an amazing life.

You are going to do cool things.

You’re going to meaningful things.

And, most importantly, you’re going to be happy.”

Trekking through the Longji rice paddies of China.

Trekking through the Longji rice paddies of China (November ’12).

2 Responses to “Lessons from the Halfway Mark”

  1. Van Pelt, Carl March 20, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    I know this post rings true to life; I think it’s smart (but not sure). Thanks for making me think…and, ok, I’m still doing so (maybe I’m a slow poke).

    • Lucie March 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm #

      Delighted to be making you think! Let me know when you figure out if the post is smart or not.


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