Many summers ago, I did a photo project, capturing a few friends holding up photos of specific words from one of my favorite quotes, “Not all those who wander are lost” (Tolkien). It was 2009 when I discovered this quote, and I was in one of the biggest in-between moments of my life. I had just left my job at TOMS, and was gearing up to move to northern Michigan.
This line became a mantra for me, and one which guided so much of my personal affirmations and self-efficacy. I even blew up the photos as large mats, placing them over the desk in my room/office (I worked in residential life, for all those who understand the reality of a, “room/office”). In many ways, this quote still exists as a personal exclamation. Hell, scroll up – it’s the title photo for my blog. I live this. I genuinely believe that we are never truly lost. And more so, I believe there is a plan and a purpose behind everything we do or can do (and not even as much in the religious context, but more so that there are little bits of life and love and learning which exist at every, even random and unplanned, corner). Learning is essential. Dissonance is learning. And wandering is real, and raw.
This summer I was introduced to the Slow Club song, “Wanderer Wandering,” and of course I wore the song out on repeat. It became a badge of honor, and contrary to the belief that, “Pompeii,” was played while taking flight to China, it was actually this song which resonated with me most in the initial moments of international risk taking.
Just before I left for China, a very good friend of mine introduced me to one of his very good friends who is also abroad right now. This particular individual is in Morocco, working for the Peace Corps, and doing much larger and more impacting things than I could ever imagine. He and I will email a few times per month, process out some of our experiences, and provide support to one another. He frequently blogs about his experience, and one of his most recent posts really struck a chord with me. One specific paragraph reads as follows:
“However, a dear friend once told me earlier this year, ‘Sure, not all who wander are lost, but how beautiful is it to be lost and have the chance to wander.’ Beautiful words, and throughout my simultaneous belonging in the lost and found box in this crazy overlapping phenomenon of pure joy and pure chaos, those images I dreamed of sure began to look different when wandering.”
Gasp, right? Real, right? I would add, raw and relevant, as well. And I would further argue, people are part of that chaos. And with each location, endeavor, job win/loss, challenge, barrier, and gain, people take up space in the beautiful, “lost and found box,” of life. And with each person we meet, a new and unique perspective is added to our repertoire of curiosity and knowledge. For example, I spent the weekend in Beijing (as you know, I’ve been living remotely two hours east of the city), and on my first day in town, I met a man in the elevator who was, ironically, from Morocco. In my attempt to connect this new elevator introduction with my electronic Peace Corps pen pal, I actually ended up making a new friend. Nearly four hours later (and five glasses of wine for me), we talked through the American preK-12 education system, diversity and racial dynamics, perceptions of the United Staes, travel, family (he and his wife have a precious 10-month old), and a myriad of other engaging and thought-provoking topics. And following this conversation, I was tired. My mind hurt, and I was intellectually drained. But all I could think was, This is growth. This moment reminded me of the power others hold to truly grant us perspective. Again, This is growth. It is important to be around people who inquire about our values and beliefs, and more so, ask questions which challenge us to know why it is that we know and believe what it is that we believe.
So, a new week is here. And there are millions of people out there with different experiences, perspectives, and life lessons ready to be shared and learned. How can you capitalize on that growth? How can you maximize your own story, thus letting others share in that learning and growing? Are you even sharing your story? You have one. We all do. And as you wander, wonder, or ponder, my challenge is to look up. Meet a stranger on an elevator. Give an honest and raw answer when someone asks how you are doing. Be open and honest about the current status of your heart. Embrace unknown. Accept unknown. Accept your most authentic and raw self. And then, be okay with the unknown that comes with that acceptance.
Still wandering, ever accepting,
“Soak up today. Ask someone, ‘How is the state of your heart today?’ Ask yourself the same question. Strive to be a human being rather than a human doing.” – Janine Myers