So we just found out we are moving to the country of Comoros! Just kidding. April Fools. But for those of you who were thinking "What the bleep is Comoros?" Wikipedia's short answer is "a sovereign archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off the eastern coast of Africa, between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar." It also happens to be one of the globe's least populous nations, but one of the most densely populated. In other words, it's a tiny country packed with people.
Okay, now that geography lesson is over, I want to delve into something personal -- our psychology of wanderlust right now. Charming and I moved to Palestine in May and June of 2012, with plans to stay for the duration of Charming's two-year contract with his organization. Beyond two years, our stay was and is unknown. So that means in just a few months, we enter unplanned territory. And something weird happened to our mindset. It's weird and also weirdly familiar. When was the last time I had this feeling? The summer after my senior year of high school.
Spoiling the Nest
Let me start by saying that all of high school was an emotional roller coaster for me (and for everyone, I know) but I remember that by the time I graduated, my roller coaster was decidedly uncomfortable. I felt completely done with my hometown, my family, my friends, and anything I could possibly do for fun. My mom called it "spoiling the nest," and I certainly was. I was irritable and quick to complain. I lashed out and put distance between me and my loved ones. I was a bird who was ready to fly, but knew that to leave the comfort of the nest I had to convince myself that it was a boring place filled with stupid people. I needed the place and people to prove their negative attributes so that I could feel justified in leaving. I love my family, and my hometown is filled with dear friends. So those things I harped on weren't true, but my subconscious started to make them feel true, so that when the time came to leave, I didn't hesitate.
Similarly, I noticed I have been complaining more than usual about Palestine. I've been snarking on the repressive atmosphere, the constant harassment, the shoddy business standards, everything right down to the broken hinge on our toilet seat. Even though I can find those things everywhere in the world, if I look hard enough.
The Wanderlust Timer
Nothing seemed fun or worth doing for a while. I racked my brain. What was wrong? And then I realized it. I was spoiling the nest. Even though we have no plans to leave this place, my brain had been thinking two years, two years, two years, for so long that it was like a timer started going off when two years approached. A timer that said, "Ok, prepare for the train to leave the station." The wanderlust timer.
But the truth is, we may be here for a while longer. We don't know. The widening chasm between my geographical location and my mental location called for a recent attitude shift to bring them back to the same place.
Getting My Joie Back
I did four things to get my joie de vivre back and get back to Palestine mentally, instead of being here and not being here.
1. I talked it over with some friends and realized what was going on.
2. I imagined that we made another two-year commitment here. What would I do? What new places would I see, activities would I try, friends would I make?
3. I centered by focusing on my deeper purpose in life which I can live out with enthusiasm absolutely anywhere in the world.
4. I took action on a couple of things relating to #2 and #3 and put some new adventures into motion. (With help from my friends.)
I think these steps or some variation of them could be helpful if you find yourself drifting to some other place mentally and that drifting is making your current location or job or relationship seem not quite the romantic place it once was.
What do you think? What do you do when you need to enjoy where you are a little more? Please share in the comments.
When our friends and family ask "What's next?" I really like being able to give a concrete answer to that question. But the truth is, we don't know right now, and we don't know how long we won't know.
So for the time being, I'm focusing on enjoying my springtime nest right here in Palestine.
All Are Valid
I'll close with this excerpt from Mark Manson that I read and enjoyed today. It's from his essay "Wanderlust."
"The more places you go the less any single one is likely to satisfy you. As with any purely external form of satisfaction, there’s a cruel diminishing returns to it. Yesterday’s exotic is today’s bore. Yesterday’s news is today’s history. It’s the core of any addictive behavior: you need more and more and more, until one day you need less. Or even worse, you die never having known enough.
The more you see and experience, the more you see the overlapping of personality across culture, you see the universality of daily human existence, the common denominator of nature, and you understand that joy and relationships too, are location-independent.
You (hopefully) begin to understand the reward for any journey must be the journey itself or nothing at all — the moments of airport tedium as well as the exaltation of the world’s highest monuments; the anxious anticipation of the unknown as well as the jaded boredom of routine; the vanity of indulging in prestige and class as well as the humility of the living among the most downtrodden and unfortunate. All are valid and necessary. All are their own steps upon the same path of your life."
- Mark Manson