This is a question I constantly asked myself and have been asked by others for the past 8 months. I consistently re-evaluated, reflected, and changed my answer hundreds of times at different points and for different reasons during our time abroad. Painting my Spirit Gold encompasses many different significances for me. In other words, am I changing for the better? Am I living intentionally? Am I actively pursuing my goals? Have I found what I’m seeking? And ultimately, am I genuinely happy?
The answer I’m left with is somewhat of a cliffhanger and pretty inconclusive (pretty anticlimactic). My spirit is definitely a different shade than it was before we left. It is closer to gold but isn’t quite yet there. Honestly, I still have a lot of work to do and quite a ways to go.
This trip was the perfect chance for me to kickstart and begin my journey of seeking answers and learning how to build a more well-rounded and balanced life for myself. Besides accomplishing a lifetime goal of mine to travel the world, it gave me that huge step away from what I was previously doing, to see what in my life was working and what was bringing me down. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know myself better and reflect on the things I put upon myself that makes personal happiness more difficult to obtain. But unfortunately, this whole painting my spirit gold thing is most likely going to be a lifelong adventure and doesn’t end with the trip being over. It is actually the beginning of an even bigger adventure (this is what I’ve been telling myself to ease the pain of our trip being finished). Now I have to take what I’ve learned, apply it, and continue to seek my truth in the real world. This is going to be the hard part.
As we were landing in the O’hare International Airport exactly 2 weeks ago, I kept thinking to my suddenly panicked self, “As long as you continue to strive for happiness and keep on this path you’ve been paving for yourself, everything will be fine”. Since we’ve returned, it has been a busy, happy, excited, confusing whirlwind of seeing friends and family, doing adult things (health insurance, apartment leases, hair cuts), starting to get my belly bulge in check, and everything else that comes with returning home after 8 months. Because we’ve been bopping around from place to place and been so busy, I comfortably settled into my old mentality and mindset of not living and experiencing life intentionally. It is insane to me how easily I folded back into something I’d been trying to change for 8 months. I wasn’t blogging, Dan and I weren’t connecting, I was drinking too much, I was letting little things bother me, overthinking everything, and my stomach aches returned. I was letting myself go through the motions, again.
I saw a quote last week that read, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions”. I couldn’t stop thinking about how this quote applied to me. To ground myself, I decided to read through some of my past entries. From learning how to enjoy an experience enough or unplugging from technology in Colombia, to learning how to deal with difficult situations in Patagonia, to being appreciative of where I am in Chile, to stomaching life in a monkey cage in the Amazon, to not judging something by one bad experience in Rome; I realized I have most of the material and experience to gain what I’m seeking. I need to continue to apply the lessons these wonderful countries and experiences taught me in all facets of my life and not become stagnant (easier said than done right?)
Although I fell off the wagon for a minute there after the excitement of returning home, I am currently getting back on track. We have exciting plans with friends and family to look forward to, we’ve gotten to spend some time with our cats, a trip to Denver planned to see if that is where we want to live long term, I have a job that I’m excited to return to at International TEFL Academy, I’ve been working out, and now, I’m blogging again.
Unfortunately painting my spirit gold won’t be a goal that I can simply check off my list after 8 months abroad but I’m still on my way with my newly stretched mind, experiences, lessons, and memories propelling me in the right direction.