Having the opportunity to both travel and study in Europe for eight months has taught me more about myself and about the world than any other experience I have ever had. Duh. Of course. Maybe you are currently abroad, maybe you have friends or kids abroad, or you just know me and are giving my blog a pity read (thanks) but regardless your connection to college students abroad, you are probably familiar with the beautiful instagram/Facebook/blog posts that imply the greatest life lessons from each weekend condensed into a beautiful quote or poetic paragraph.
These are not unauthentic. Many of my biggest life lessons here can be pointed back to a specific city or trip because that is where something clicked for me- and I’m not going to lie that it gives me great satisfaction sharing them on Instagram with a relevant lyric or rant about my “life-changing epiphany”. But behind those posts are tired, often times confused students that get stuck in airports and sleep in sketchy hostels. These young kids- recently turned adults (open to interpretation) that are seeing some of the most phenomenal sites and cities in the entire world show that off, show their little lessons of beauty, but I think that my biggest lesson of the year is that having the most incredible year of your life and being blessed out of your mind (being in Europe for a year), doesn’t make your personal problems go away. Abroad isn’t the perfect little posts we give to you.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. So many of us live with the idea that as soon as something about our circumstances change then we will be happy/fit/kind, then we will read that book/go on that trip/have that conversation. Well, my circumstances have changed significantly the last year and guess what? My personal problems, every single one of them, came with me to Italy. Don’t get me wrong. I have grown IMMENSELY here. More than I have in my entire life. But, it took work and exposure of a lot of the ugly parts of myself for me to start to work on them. Your depression will not go away by circumstance. Your laziness, sloppiness, lack of self-control, or addictions don’t go away just because you go to Europe for year. This epic pilgrimage in itself is not the fix all.
But it can be a catalyst for change. Being surrounded by history, spending large amounts of time on trains and in conversation with people from a completely different culture forces you to self-evaluate… often. It is that self-evaluation I think, that has allowed me to process this year and ultimately change, I think (I hope) for the better.
What catalyst can you bring into your life to provoke self-reflection about yourself and your life? The next phase alone won’t fix your problems. A new book? Journaling? A Bible study? Maybe just living each day with intention. Recognizing that these things won’t just come from circumstance, but happiness comes from within. I’m living my dream, and yet I’ve had some of the greatest emotional slumps I’ve ever had this year that came from expectation of my life to fulfill the well being of my heart. It’s been the mornings after trips, the late night journaling in my dorm bed that have giving me the stability of my life.
What do you do actively in your life that brings you a little peace or happiness? How can you incorporate parts of your long term goals you’re saving for another season into the season you’re in right now?
The richest parts of life are not the things you see, it’s the people you talk to and the processing you do there. The relationships you build and the funny stories you accumulate. All of these things go further than abroad. This is life. Circumstances won’t fix all your personal problems. But maybe there is something you can do now, exactly where you are sitting that can- in the day to day improvement and nurturing of yourself and gardening of your life.