Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The times...they are a'changin

I have to admit that, during the day as I thought about what to write for this blog, my stomach would knot just a little whenever I tried to think what my highest purpose in life could possibly be. I think this stems from my general worrying over what I really want to do in my life after graduation. As junior year draws to a close, I'm reminded of how fast the years tend to go by and of how uncertain I am about my future. However, as I walked back from a quick CVS run, I started to think about Liz Gilbert and her own quest for her life's purpose. Thinking about her extraordinary experiences in Italy, India, and Indonesia, while simultaneously enjoying the beautiful day outside, I let my worries trickle away. I realized that it's ok to not know what you are meant to do in your life, and to be uncertain about where life is going to lead you.

When Liz describes her marriage and career in the first chapter, she says: "But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old...we had built our entire life under the common expectation that...I would want to settle down and have children...and would be happy to live in a big, busy household full of children and homemade quilts, with a garden in the backyard and a cozy stew bubbling on the stovetop" (10). She describes a type of cookie-cutter life that a lot of people strive towards when they are young. Not that this is in any way a bad lifestyle, but it fits into a general definition of happiness that has become a defining part of our culture. Sometimes, though, one possible path to finding happiness doesn't end the same way for everyone, as Liz found out. Her courage to travel alone, so far away from home and the sense of security that it offers, proved to be a life-changing decision, and one that introduced her to a whole new set of experiences.

In grade school, and then again in high school, I viewed the world mostly through the lense of my family. Our family is pretty small, almost miniscule. My parents divorced when my brother and I were in third grade, and when my dad left, so did his side of the family. For most of my childhood and into my adolesence, it was just my two brothers, my mom, and me, with various pets. Our extended family was made up of our mom's parents, and her uncle who lives across the sea in England. We didn't travel much either, never really leaving the eastern seabord, and haven't yet traveled out of the continental US. Needless to say, during my grade and high school years, my view of the world was based mainly on my experiences in PA, where I live, and in a few of the surrounding states. When I entered college, though, I met people from all over the United States, and a few from different countries. A few of them held vastly different beliefs than my own, and had had many different experiences growing up. It was exciting and eye-opening at the same time, and every year that I am here, I learn new things and my view of the world changes just a little.

Entering into the world straight from college can be scary and very intimidating at times, especially if you're still trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do in life. For this reason, I think that Liz's story about her own quest for her life's purpose is inspiring. She was able to let go and embrace all the uncertainty in her life, letting it lead her on her path of self-discovery. It also changed her perspective: "...I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation" (75). I think that's probably the best advice of all -- to learn to embrace change and to treat each new experience as a way to learn more about who you are.

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