Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Broke, Fabulous, & Traveling: What I Learned in Bali

Over a month ago (I know, I'm late publishing this post, but if you know me you know I'm always running at least 15 minutes late), I spent 10 days in Bali with my parents and one of my siblings. My family went to Bali for 3 weeks when I was 18, and my parents went back during their first extended trip to Asia last year.

We spent a couple days in Canggu, a recently touristy beach town in the southwest, and about 5 days in Ubud, a popular destination closer to the center of the island. During these 10 days (well, 8 — we spent more than 2 full days traveling), we ate great food, revisited some favorite places, played cards for hours on end, and generally just chilled the f out.

One of my favorite things that I got to do in Bali was have some quality one-on-one time with my family. I get to see my family a couple times a year, and our time together is becoming more and more significant the older I get.

At coffee with my mom one day, I told her about how I wanted to do that cliche thing white women do when they travel to Bali and really find meaning in my life. I'd been struggling all winter to feel like the life I was leading was significant in any way, and wanted to take advantage of this extended free time to buckle down and Figure Shit Out. I didn't know how, but I wanted to sit down and write a bunch of lists that would tell me what I could do to feel happy.

My mom didn't offer any advice on what to include in this plan I wanted to have.

"You've been using so much of your energy to stay alive for so long. Now that you don't need to do so much to make it through each day, don't feel pressured/act on that perceived pressure to use that extra energy you no longer HAVE to use," she told me.

"You're not going to figure out exactly what brings you joy," she said, "in the next year. You're going to spend your whole life searching for meaning, and that's going to be one of the biggest themes in your life."

If you read my last blog post, you might have an idea of the mindset I was in when I went to Bali.

One common thread in my life is that I try to plan everything. I write list after list after list and tell myself that all I need to do is take action on what's on the lists and everything will work the way I want it to. This urge only gets bigger when I'm feeling stressed, anxious, depressed, or otherwise emotional.

Like I told my mom, I've found myself struggling to find meaning in my life lately. I don't know why. Another instinct when I'm having a hard time is to buckle down and figure out WHY, but I'm learning that sometimes feels more like solving a problem than it actually is. When appropriate, I'm trying to let myself experience and work through emotions without extending them by dwelling on them.

My immediate response to my perceived lack of meaning was, of course, to make a bunch of lists and buckle down to get shit done. "I'm just stressed," I told myself, "because of some work stuff. All I need is time to make a plan to be happy and then I can do all those things and then I'll be happy."

But my mom was right: making a plan to be happy was impractical and unnecessary. I wasn't going to be able to figure out how to be fulfilled in the period of 10 days, nor should I push myself to try. I'd never even considered that I could take a step back and relax a little bit once I'd gotten to the point of safety in my mental health.

I definitely find myself working on a plan to lead a meaningful life, but I'm trying to give myself credit for everything I already do and give my future self some benefit of the doubt. I'm going to keep trying new things and sticking with things I already know I like. So, I guess, just living life?

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