I’ve reluctantly succumb to using an eReader due to ease and practicality. I’m an avid book collector, but when you’re hopping from one province to the next, it’s not exactly convenient to pack boxes upon boxes of books. As much as I love the weight, texture, smell and very act of reading an actual book, my eReader holds thousands of stories and perfectly suits my current lifestyle.
I’m saddened by the sight of eyes looking down towards phones that are smarter than us. Remember the days when people looked forwards when walking somewhere? Or sitting on the bus- left to your own thoughts while waiting to arrive at your destination? Maybe, if you were prepared, you packed a book or newspaper to pass the time? Last week I watched a busy looking businessman walk straight into a pole while looking at his phone. I laughed, but I’m not innocent. I’ve blindly walked for blocks staring down into the abyss of cyberspace without so much as a glance upwards.
Even writing- I used to prefer putting pen to paper over fingers to keyboard. Lately when I feel inspired I flip open my laptop>open Google Chrome> type in wordpress.com>click the “create a new post” button. I used to grab the closest piece of paper and writing tool available and frantically write to keep up with my racing thoughts. Now I type faster than I can handwrite.
While these advances make my life easier, they don’t necessarily make it better. Often I feel as though my phone is a burden, simply providing me with information overload. I miss the therapeutic release of writing things on paper.
When I’m exhausted of the digital, I resort once more to analog. I leave my phone and eReader behind, grab a pen and notebook and descend into nature. Rather than getting lost in my news feed I lose myself in the serenity of the trees and mountains. When my mind quiets is when words flow from pen to paper with effortless ease. To simply be without your phone is like a mini vacation. Though it may feel stressful at first, as though you’re cut off from your connection to the outside world, take a moment to be present with your surroundings. No status updates, Instagram posts, celebrity gossip, tragic news reports, vlogs, tweets. It’s just you. When your mind isn’t busy with the lives of others, you will truly find your art, and your self.
Inspired by the Daily Post’s weekly Discover Challenge prompt, Analog.
They are also fantastically durable. Because they are so long lived, atoms really get around. Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms- up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested- probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name…
So we are all reincarnations-though short-lived ones. When we die our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere- as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew. (From Bill Bryson’s chapter “The Mighty Atom,” in A Short History of Nearly Everything)
I consider myself a spiritual being, but I have no religious affiliations. When faced with the idea of death, I envy the religious- they have an unwavering belief of what happens when we die. Whether it’s the belief in heaven, nirvana or rebirth, at least there’s comfort in knowing what to expect. I’ve never had such a comfort- until learning (relearning, I’m sure I learned of atoms in high school) of “The Mighty Atom,” to quote Bryson.
When I picked up this book I wasn’t seeking any spiritual revelations (nor expecting such). I’m simply on an ongoing quest to better myself intellectually, as I mentioned in my previous post on learning in adulthood. I never considered the fact that science could provide spiritual comfort, much like religion does for its devotees. To know that my atomic makeup is simply recycled from those who came before me, and that those same atoms will continue to exist after I’m long gone has soothed my fear of death more than I ever thought possible. Furthermore, its provided me an overwhelming feeling of interconnectedness with the world around me, with those before me and those to come after.
There truly is beauty in this world, folks. Even if it’s as minuscule as an atom.
I’m sorry I’ve been MIA this week (although, I’m sure you didn’t lose any sleep over my absence). It’s mainly an apology to myself. I love writing and connecting with the blogging community. It’s just been one of those weeks- do you ever have days or weeks like this? When it feels like a huge feat simply to get out of bed in the morning? I spent all of my energy just to get through the work week. Fortunately, the weekend has finally arrived, meaning I can catch up on what I missed in the blogosphere, and even contribute a little something of my own!
I wanted to conclude my Road to Vancouver series with a final reflection on the entire experience (To get caught up: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). It’s been over a month since my last post in this series, but I needed to take the time to really reflect on everything. I’m hoping this series will help to educate and even inspire anyone who wishes to embark on a journey across their country, whichever country it may be. Learn from what I did do, and also, learn from what I didn’t do. I want to provide an in depth analysis of this journey: Issues we had prior to the road trip, things we did well, things I would have done differently, and what I have learned since arriving.
When the Signs are Saying, Don’t Go
Leading up to our departure, an uncomfortable amount of events occurred that could have been interpreted as fate’s way of telling us not to embark on this journey across the country.
A month before leaving, our car window was smashed, and luckily only a few replaceable things were stolen.
Soon after, my partner was in a car accident, luckily minor, but it damaged the bumper, hood and rad support of the very car we planned to drive across the country. We were on a very tight budget, every extra dollar being put aside to make this road-trip possible. We feared that car would no longer be in good enough condition to bring us across the country. Luckily, the damages to the car weren’t as bad as we anticipated, and didn’t hinder us financially. We were grateful that my partner arose from the accident unscathed, and the car turned out to be just fine, but the implications were unnerving. We started to second guess ourselves. Was this accident nature’s way of telling us not to go through with our move across the country?
With the rental availability in Vancouver already at an all-time low, and the pet-friendly accommodations even more bleak, it’s not all that surprising that we couldn’t secure a place over the phone prior to our arrival. Any landlord we spoke with insisted on meeting us before they would agree to finalize (and rightfully so). Once we hit the road and left our apartment in Ottawa, we would officially be homeless.
Making matters more trying, a few acquaintances who had previously resided in Vancouver gave us promise of job connections upon our arrival. Much to our disappointment, once the time came, these connections fell through.
On top of everything, we had more naysayers than supporters in our dreams of an old fashioned Canadian road-trip. It seemed that no one could fathom why on earth we wanted to embark on this journey. I faced so much doubt and so many questions that I became numb to them.
Why do you want to move to Vancouver? What will you do once you’re there? What’s your plan? Why drive when you can fly? Why would you leave Ottawa? Move back to Toronto! You know it’s expensive right? It won’t fix your problems. You guys are crazy.
And so on.
Through it all I masked my worry with a courageous smile, what else could I do? These questions and concerns crossed my mind on a daily basis, and it didn’t help that everyone around me was asking them. Of course I was scared. It’s terrifying to leave everything you know on a whim. It’s also exhilarating and by far the biggest adventure I’ve embarked on so far.
Despite all of these “warning” signs, my gut never once told me we shouldn’t go. If we had allowed our doubters to stop us from going, we always would have wondered what could have been. Even if it didn’t work out and we ran back home with our tail between our legs, at least we could say we tried.
To quote a true Canadian, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take – Wayne Gretzky.
If I Could Do It All Again…
Due to our sheer lack of organization and planning of this trip, we are extremely happy with how everything fell into place. That being said, there are some things I’d have done differently given the opportunity:
Camping, Camping, Camping
For what was supposed to be a camping trip across Canada, we did very little of it. We were ill prepared and hadn’t planned much in advance. We didn’t have the proper equipment for a successful camping venture; the most we had packed was a tent. We also didn’t think to pre-book campsites, because frankly we didn’t really have an idea of where we would be and when. A tip for anyone camping in Canada in late August: Do not sacrifice warm clothing and sleeping bags. The night we did spend camping in Banff was beautiful but uncomfortably freezing. If we had been more prepared we could have spanned our trip over many more days, taking our time and enjoying the beauty of Canadian wilderness. C’est la vie.
Venture Off the Beaten Path
For the sake of ease, we followed the Trans Canada Highway for the entirety of our trip. If you aren’t aware, the Trans Canada is one of the world’s longest highways, and it connects all 10 provinces in Canada. It is by far the most direct route to take you from one province to the next. The down side of blindly taking the road most travelled is that it limits the experience of a trip across the country greatly. While we were still exposed to so much Canadian beauty, there were also many hours of flat nothingness, especially in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It was mostly wheat fields and sky.
Wherever you are in the world, this same rule applies to your travels. Take the road less travelled: it may be bumpier than the paved path, but it’ll be sure to provide unforgettable adventure.
Even When You’re Done Planning, Keep Planning
Plan until the night before you leave. You can never be too prepared for a trip of this nature. Luckily we were able to prepare ourselves financially, and in case of emergency we signed up for CAA (Canadian Automobile Association). Our planning didn’t go much further than this. In hindsight, we winged it. It would have been nice to have compiled a list of landmarks, maybe one per day, to see or experience while passing through each province. Also, it would have made for a much more comfortable trip if we had sold the sedan in exchange for a roomier SUV. Finally, do not underestimate the importance of a food cooler. We would have saved ourselves a chunk of change if we hadn’t had to buy every meal along the way.
What I’ve Learned
I’ve learned more about myself in the past 10 months than I have in the entirety of my life, and it’s all thanks to this trip. It wasn’t simply a drive across the country. It was just as much an outward journey as it was an inward one. There was one very obvious destination, Vancouver, and another that we would stumble upon accidentally, the self. My existence felt as though it screeched to a halt, and it was no one’s fault but my own. Some people are content with taking life as it comes, but it was driving me crazy. I was a university graduate with absolutely no career prospects and thousands of dollars of debt. I hadn’t the slightest direction in life and I was terrified that I would never find my path. My boyfriend was feeling much the same. Even though we actively decided that it was time for change, I didn’t fully understand how necessary this trip was until months afterwards.
I’ve also learned that running away from your problems doesn’t solve them. We still fight the same internal battles as we did back then, only now we’re thousands of miles away from home. It’s human nature to try to run away from our problems, whether it’s quite literally running thousands of miles away, suppressing them with drugs and alcohol, or seeking constant distraction. You can only internalize your battles for so long before they inevitably begin resurfacing. Don’t expect running away, partying or material goods to bring you happiness. It starts from within.
As much as I crave travel and adventure, being this far away from my friends and family has made me realize just how important they are. No matter how much I want to see the world, at the end of the day what I want most is to come home to see the people who mean most to me.
Finally, I believe I’ve truly found myself since being here. In Ottawa, I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I wanted a title. I wanted to be able to call home and tell my family I no longer had to serve tables, and that I had found a “real job”. I wanted this title so badly that I didn’t stop to think what I actually wanted, or what I was passionate about. It was only once I arrived here, and I got this title, this “real job”, that I realized it’s not everything. While I am grateful for the stability and experience, I have come to understand that I mostly wanted it to make my family proud. With this, I now know what I truly want to do with my life, and I feel so at peace with this revelation. I want to be a writer someday. This became truly evident a few months ago when I started blogging more consistently. I’ve wanted to write for years, but it was only when I began blogging that I realized I might actually be able to do it. Previous to this blog, I was terrified to share my words with even my closest friends, let alone strangers. The more I share, the more I come out of my shell. Even if I never monetize it, I’m so happy to have rekindled my love of writing. There is no better therapy than self expression through art.
Final Words of Wisdom
For our entire lives we are taught to listen to our elders as they are wiser and have a lifetime worth of experience. At some point, you have to start listening to yourself. While your elders may be wiser, they don’t know what’s best for you, you do. I urge you to listen to your gut. If you aren’t happy with your circumstances, fight to change them, even if the end goal is uncertain or the road a little bumpy. If you’re craving new surroundings, just go for it, what’s the worst that can happen? If you hate your job, find a way to pursue what you’d rather be doing. Ultimately, take control of your life. Ask yourself, What do I want?Don’t let fear and doubt hold you back. I promise you won’t regret listening to yourself before others.
I simply had to share this. Does anyone else feel as though they have spent their life thus far chasing after someone else’s dreams for you?
This really got me thinking. Enjoy and happy Wednesday! 🙂
You dreamed of seeing me up there, Alas, I never made it; I moved beyond, to other things, And your hopes slowly faded Oh yes, you had so many plans For this fly in the ointment: I was a minor talent, but A major disappointment
“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” – Albert Einstein
I struggle to find the words to articulate this thought that has been pressing my mind this week. When applying this question to myself, the reality of the matter really set in. The question being this:
As adults, how much of our time is dedicated to learning?
Stark realization came over me this week. While I am learning via life lessons everyday and growing as a result, I haven’t really taken the time to learn new concepts or challenge my brain since completing university two years ago. What’s more daunting is the fact that since the age of 15, I’ve been slowly eliminating the things that proved to be difficult or challenging, embracing solely the skills that came with ease. When math became too inaccessible and science too intimidating, I was quick to exclude them from my studies. As I progressed into young adulthood my focus was solely on the arts: history, philosophy, literature, writing. The arts sparked my interest, and came to me with ease. The arts are fluid, allowing for interpretation and opinion. Thinking outside the box is greatly encouraged, the realm of possibilities endless. Math and sciences, on the other hand, are very black and white. You know the answer or you don’t. I was much more fascinated with exploring the grey areas of the arts, and didn’t find much joy in being confined to right vs. wrong. So rather than maintain balance, I dove head first into the grey area.
Now, as a 24 year old woman, I’ve realized that by giving up on the subjects that challenge me, I’ve limited my capabilities. I’ve been evolving the creative and imaginative, and shunned the analytical functions of my brain.
This realization came to me after a particularly stressful day at work. For the past two months I have been learning mail distribution procedures, something I’ve never done before. It’s challenging because there is no room for error. Mail is time sensitive, highly confidential and must end up in the right hands. One small mistake can lead to a domino effect of problems. I’ve been struggling with grasping my new responsibilities, and I believe a big part of my problem is due to the fact that I’ve grown so accustomed to the fluidity of the arts that I find anything that puts me in a right vs. wrong situation intimidates me. There’s no wiggle room, no room for interpretation. You know it or you don’t. I was allowing this challenge to intimidate me just as math and science did. I longed to do the things that came more naturally to me, dreading the challenges this new task was presenting. I wanted to eliminate it, to rid of the mistakes that accompany learning new things.
And then realization struck me. I’ve been taking the easy way out of things for the entirety of my independent adult life. I’ve become so focused on the things that come naturally, I’ve stopped allowing room for learning new, more challenging tasks and subjects. It was this very moment that I also realized the only way to progress in life is to accept challenges with open arms, and to never stop learning.
My next burning question was, how can I begin self-educating? How can I get out of this comfortable routine I’ve fallen into, and push myself above and beyond? All of the education we’ve been exposed to is predetermined, guided by a wise leader, such as a teacher, a parent, a team coach, a religious figure. Taking control of your own education takes a determined mind. We have all the tools available to us to educate ourselves, but once learning becomes optional, how many of us embark down this path? There is no end to the path of education, It is forever ongoing. We mustn’t cower away from the challenges of learning, rather, we must encourage them. After much research and discussion with others, here are some of the things I will be doing to incorporate active learning into my adult life:
Despite my past struggles with science, I’ve always been fascinated by it. Specifically, Astronomy and the study of the cosmos sparks my interest. My boyfriend sent me a great article, Five Awesome Science Courses You Can Take Online Completely Free, which outlines exactly what the title promises. I signed up for a course beginning June 28th (As promised, it’s completely free), From Atoms to Stars: How Physics Explains Our World. If science doesn’t appeal to you, a quick google search of your subject of interest will open up a world of possibilities. We have endless information available at the tips of our fingers.
If the online education approach doesn’t suit you, you can always invest your time into taking a course at a nearby college or university. During my time in university, I had classmates of all ages and backgrounds. There were the full time students in their early 20’s like myself, and there were also the part time students in their 30’s and beyond who were there simply for the love of learning and bettering themselves. The latter were the ones who were most dedicated, most involved and passionate. When you are educating yourself out of curiosity and not out of a sense of requirement, your mind will be much more open and responsive to learning.
The salons of the Enlightenment Era encouraged discussion and sharing of knowledge. Rather than shunning social situations outside of your comfort zone, think of them as an opportunity for discussion and insight. Each conversation you take part in can be thought of as a learning experience. Each individual on this planet has a different outlook, different experiences and education. Listen intently, don’t simply wait for your turn to speak. Observe and try to understand each person’s point of view. Their opinions have come to be as a response to their personal experiences. While you may not always agree with them, you can always learn and expand your mind to a different way of thinking.
Step Outside of Your Genre
Read things that interest you but at the same time challenge you. For example, I typically love reading thrillers and science fiction. I find these genres exciting but not entirely challenging. I’ve recently began reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, an immensely readable book outlining the history of science, from the Big Bang to today. What I enjoy about this book is that it’s informative but also very accessible to the uninformed reader. Don’t be intimidated by subjects that you are not wholly educated in. Everyone starts somewhere, challenge yourself to learn something new! I guarantee that whatever topic you are intrigued by, whether it’s astronomy, literature, language, there are beginner options out there!
Challenge Your Body
Physical well-being is just as important as mental health. As much as you exercise your brain, you should exercise your body too. I’ve begun incorporating yoga into my mornings before work. I wake up an hour earlier than I normally would to attend the 6:30-7:30 hot yoga class at a studio near my work. The hardest part of this is simply getting out of bed. What I’ve noticed is I feel more awake and mentally prepared for the day having done yoga versus getting that extra hour of sleep. It truly sets the tone for the entire day. I feel much more aware and receptive to learning. It clears my mind of stress from the get-go, allowing my mind to retain more information as it’s less consumed with worry or anxiety. If stress or an anxious mind holds you back, I greatly suggest physical activity.
Don’t Let Fear of Mistakes Hold You Back
Mistakes are a result of learning new things. If you avoid making mistakes, you are indirectly avoiding new challenges in your life. Think of each mistake as a lesson in and of itself. Don’t fret over them, simply learn from them. Without the chance of error, our lives would be very stagnant.
I hope these tips help you to open up your mind to new lessons and challenges. Do you have any other tips on how to further your education as an adult? Please feel free to share them in the comments, I’m always looking for new ways to better myself.