I have been on a big self-realization / introspection kick. And maybe it makes me a little lame, but as much as my experiences and a bee searching for pollen in a flower can prompt me to think about the self and life, various forms of pop culture does it to me too. Yes, I was one of those people who obsessively watched LOST and theorized about everything, and was completely devastated (both emotionally for the end of a great story and spiritually for how it made me think about God, life, etc.) by the end of the show.
I've been feeling a little bit down for the better part of a month, and whenever that happens I turn inwards and reflect on how I'm living my life, what does it all mean, yada yada. I guess you could say I have 3 week bouts of the quarter life crisis once a year, but it's not so much of the crisis as much as it is me keeping myself in check to make sure I'm truly happy doing what I'm doing. Sometimes with how fast life moves you need to take stock of who you are and where you're going. Does this match your ideal you? Are you happy? Is this what you want long term? Generally my answers are yes, but even the happiest of people needs to make sure they have what they want sometimes. (As a side note, thanks to the start of a new quarter, decent grades, sunshine, and the promise of many future birthday celebrations, my funk has lifted. Amazing how after 2 straight months of rain and gloomy, a little Spring and some flowers always seems to brighten your day.)
During my latest bout of introspection, I watched Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts. Sometimes self-exploration movies frustrate me because they all seem so cheesey and predictable. This movie really seemed to fit the bill when I watched the previews and saw commercials. A divorce woman who is so depressed she runs away from life? It seemed like the typical chick-lit-turned-flick to me and I was not interested. Then it came on Netflix instant play and I was curious, so I watched it out of boredom. Maybe it was predictable...maybe it was even a little cheesey, but considering I needed to see a movie like this, I really loved it.
If you are not familiar with the plot line, Julia Roberts plays Liz (the author of the original memoir on which this movie is based), a woman in her mid 30s who is extremely depressed. Deciding she's miserable in her life and marriage, she divorces her husband (who she married very young), takes up with a younger man, and then decides she needs to go on a quest to find herself. She chooses three destinations which make up the three sections of the movie. In each place she searches for meaning in her life and Eats, Prays, then Falls in Love.
In the first section she goes to Italy and eats, constantly. (This sounds amazing to me and made me want to go to Italy really badly, especially since my favorite kind of food is Italian food. One day...). She learns to speak Italian, makes great friends, but she's still...searching.
Next she goes to India, studies with a spiritual guru community and prays a lot. She's frustrated because she can't seem to find what she's looking for. But through some friends who are struggling with their own demons she finds what she desperately. Balance.
The last stop on her trip is Bali, to visit and learn from the medicine man who sparked her trip a year earlier. He's a darling old man with no teeth and a great sense of humor. We don't see too much of what he teaches Liz, but we do see that they forge a relationship and it seems that in this section relationships are more important to Liz's growth. She's always had friends in each place she goes, but they seemed more of a catalyst for growth than an area in which she needed to grow. She helps quite a few people in need, and in turn helps herself as she falls in love (hopefully mending a very broken heart).
At the end, we think she gets a happy ending, but what you realize is that it's the journey that really mattered for her. All the being lost, and searching, and finding, and losing, and learning, and growing. Liz's delayed quarter-life-crisis sparked a world-wide quest for knowledge and growth, and while all of us might not be so lucky to have the funds to go around the world to find our own selves, it does spark some ideas about how we can survive as well.
According to Maslow (a famous psychologist) each human being has a list of things they need to become self-actualized (a thing many Bhuddists strive to be but with a different definition). Without meeting our own personalized needs at each level, you cannot reach the end of your journey. As Liz travels, at each stop she fulfills the levels in different ways. In Italy she eats, makes friends, and finds self acceptance for her body. In India she prays, finds balance, and finds self acceptance for who she is. In Bali she contributes to the greater good of her society in multiple ways, has loads of sex, and potentially finds the unconditional, mature, and supportive love she's always longed for.
Everything we do is an adventure, everything can be learned from. And as I think about my own needs and how they're met, I realize that each of the "adventures" in my life has helped to fulfill them in different ways as well. College, graduate school (both in NYC and now in California), marriage, different friendships, and various jobs, have all taught me important lessons about myself and life. I feel that every 6 months I learn so much about myself and I am always surprised at the things I see. Aspects I've been told about for years, but really need to search before I found it. Things that completely shocked me that I had no idea were what I wanted. Lately the things I've learned have really excited me. I'm starting to think about life and what I really want out of it, and while the foundation is still the same, a lot of things are far different from what I had ever imagined. And I didn't even have to leave the country, let alone continent, to do it.
But who knows, maybe one day I'll lose something I once had so firmly in my head and will need to jump ship and go to Italy to eat amazing food, India to understand how Nick prays, and a third TBD destination to remind me that all you need is Love.
Maybe we're all still searching, and will for a long long time...but now it doesn't seem so bad.