The other day a friend shared an article about how the life of academia has separated her from her family because they chose more common paths for their post collegiate lives. She described feelings of alienation and a feeling of not being affirmed or understood by those with a totally different life path. It struck me that as someone who has also chosen a somewhat uncommon lifestyle, I should understand where she’s coming from.
But instead I must admit…I completely disagree…
Or rather, I don’t resonate with that experience.
I have two sisters I love dearly. Do they live lives of non-stop travel? No. Are their lives common? No way. Their lives are extraordinary. Unique. Uncommon and full of adventure. And the second I could even entertain the thought that they may not understand my lifestyle…I’m probably missing something enormous and fundamental about theirs.
In some sense, isn’t travel a showcase of the thousands of different styles of “ordinary” there are? Travelers crave, in fact, those moments where we get to experience something that is genuine to a culture we’ve not yet fully explored. I think there’s a reason for that. It’s fascinating to see what makes a person tick- the ways we’re different and the ways we’re same.
But people are going to be different and the same everywhere we go. My sisters are different from me in some ways and the same in other ways. And that is just as fascinating to me as the fact that the people I met in Bali were different in some ways and alike in others. The truth is PEOPLE are fascinating. All of them. And I find that looking for the adventure in someone’s life is quite the same process as looking for whatever is “ordinary” in their life as well. In fact…these two things are mischievously similar, and are constantly swapping places with one another. It’s like one singular character seen through a misshapen looking glass so that the perceived shape changes and undulates depending on where the observer is standing.
Maybe I just have something against dwelling on the ways we’re “not understood.” I guarantee for every person who doesn’t understand me, there’s a person I don’t understand.
So…someone has to go first.
Someone has to ask those probing questions to find out about the life they’re not seeing in full and if we’re waiting for someone to ask us about our unique perspectives, we’re missing out on the opportunity to ask someone about theirs.
Yes, there are days I am just dying to tell someone about all the amazing things I feel I’ve seen. But I bet my older sister has days she’s just dying to share with someone about the incredible things her sons are learning or the amazing things she’s learned about the process of adoption. And my twin sister likely has days she’s dying to teach someone some yoga moves she’s just learned, or play the song she’s just written.
We need to honor one another’s lives as the mysterious things they are and respect them as complex combinations of ordinary things and adventures.
And we need to be a community of askers. Especially if we want to be asked.