I have run, I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for
~ I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For by U2
A year ago, I had intentions to write an article on chasing your dreams and following your passions, beginning it with the fast-beat pop/rock song, Counting Stars by One Republic: “Baby [I’ve] been praying hard, said no more counting dollars, [we’ll] be counting stars”. Instead, 365 days later, I am writing an entirely different article, starting it with the rock/gospel anthem, I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For by U2.
Counting stars? Why not count glowworms in the Waitomo caves intead?
(Photo credits to Kristin Pierce)
Now, you must be thinking what the hell happened in the past year. Well, in May last year, I was brimming with excitement over purchasing a backpackers’ hostel, which has been one of my dreams. Numerous motivational articles preach about integrating your passion with your career, energising you to jump out of bed each day with purpose in your life. Hence, being idealistic – I thought to myself – running a backpackers’ hostel will surely be the perfect recipe to infuse my love for travelling and career together. With distaste towards conformity, the corporate rat race and being entrapped in a mire of mundanity, running my own business seems perfect in incorporating flexibility into my life, allowing me to do whatever I seek to do at any moment in time.
But.. I am now in a swamp. From one direction, a root (capital commitment injected into the hostel) entangles me. Another root (fear of failure) sprouts not too far away. Yet another root (limited opportunities for stress-free, months-long backpacking trips) snakes towards me. Not long later, I realised I am bloodied, trapped and entwined in a lattice of gnarly roots.
Instead of answering questions, the hostel has raised far more questions about the life I wish to pursue. In Survivor Worlds Apart, the contestants were split into tribes based on these traits: white collar, blue collar or no collar. I thought to myself, had I been on that season, which tribe will I be casted into? By virtue of my accounting degree and prior work as an auditor, the closest fit has to be white collar yea? However, based on Jeff Probst’s definition that blue collars are those who “follow the rules”, which is an inherent quality I possess from living in rigid Singapore, shouldn’t I be in this tribe instead? Yet, as I have always thought of myself as a free-spirited individual who lives in the spur of the moment, surely I belong in the no collars tribe then? Maybe that is why I am such a convoluted mess; for, there are simply too many latent, conflicting aspects of myself fighting to break free and let loose in a single body.
Travel has taught me a lot and it has led to me doing many things that I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I learned how to throw caution to the wind, live in the moment and to take things easy. Since I am a transformed self while travelling, shouldn’t I transpose this self towards my day-to-day life too? Yes I know, unfortunately enough, my day-to-day life is still separate from my travel life :P
Now.. I am in a gelato shop in Bologna, the stomach of Italy. I am faced with a plethora of options. Should I get a scoop of vanilla (work in Singapore)? Or chocolate (pursue further studies)? Or earl grey (move to a foreign country)? Or pistachio (work freelance)? Or salted caramel (go backpacking for months)? Or mixed berries (farm work in Australia)?
Like a gelato shop, life presents us with far too many choices. To an economist, choices and opportunity cost (what you lose out on from choosing an alternative) goes hand-in-hand. With that in mind, I wonder, “Does sacrifices necessarily accompany choices?” Sometimes, we might tell others, this is what I choose to do. Other times, we might say, I sacrificed all that for this! One is positive, the other is negative. Perhaps from these statements, we can discern the difference between choices and sacrifices: it simply lies in our mindset. Hence, rather than letting self-doubt creep into my mind for the route I have taken thus far, should I not be reframing my mindset into thinking positively? Instead of questioning decisions made, should I not let the experiences of the past guide the direction of the future? Moreover, if I can be so carefree and full of gungho on travel, why do I cautiously deliberate the choices in my day-to-day life? I should just do whatever speaks to me at the moment, and not be fixated on pursuing just one set path in life. I need not force myself to eat one flavour of gelato. I can choose to devour 3, 5 or even 8 different scoops of gelato! Btw, I really did that in just one day in Florence. I think the answer for me right now is that I will never be truly happy when I remain constant; instead, I need to tirelessly seek new adventures, or I will soon grow frustrated with the humdrums of life. It’s similar to when I have had one too many scoops of chocolate gelato, I get a scoop of pistachio instead. Actually, that is a bad analogy; for one can never have too many scoops of chocolate gelato.
In keeping to one of my post-exchange dreams – that is, to live overseas – I am now in Melbourne embarking on a new phase of life. Since graduation, I have taken multiple routes in life as I have consistently veered off the trail again and again. I shortened my plans of working 3 years as an auditor and I ended my dreams of living happily ever after as a business owner. Both times, I had questioned myself, “What’s next? Where do I go from here? What do I really want?” Now I realise what I wanted has never changed: It has always been about that elusive pursuit of happiness. Instead of thinking the paths have led to dead-ends, I now know I am just taking a detour towards the end-point. The road might be long and winding, but you know what, I am enjoying this journey.