When you step outside of your world for an extended period of time, you have the opportunity to take a fully objective look at your past life, the people in it, the lifestyle you led, and the direction you were headed. When I was abroad, I looked back at my life in the Bay. I had a lot of friends from different walks of life, was active in an eclectic mix of activities, and strove to continuously better myself. However, from the outside looking in I realized that I was living in a bubble. Or rather, many different bubbles. A comfortable, gratifying bubble called college. Another bubble coated in nostalgia and memories called Cupertino. A big bubble that defined my take on success and happiness. A bubble that contained visions of the person I wanted to become by a certain age, date, or time.
When I was traveling around living the ghetto backpacker’s life, sleeping in mosquito carcass-infested bunks for $10 a night, and suffocating on 14 hour rickety train rides with no air conditioning to save money, I thought back to my life. My comfortable, bubble-encased life back home, with all of its comforts, reliable air conditioning, and…restrictions. Most of these restrictions were self-imposed, subconsciously or not. While I always tried to lead a dynamic and unique lifestyle, I had long since succumbed to society’s expectations of success in terms of career, social status, and maintaining the status quo. I ditched writing and singing dreams in favor of a practical and respectable job with 401k. I worked for the past 8 years of my life at first to support myself financially, but later mainly to pad my resume. I prioritized school, club and career obligations over what could have been life-changing travel experiences with friends. As I sat in the back of a crowded jeepney in Angeles City, Philippines, I asked myself why. Why did all of this matter so much?
Throughout the 30 or cities around Asia I visited, I saw with my own eyes just how drastically different a life could be. The farmers that spend their entire life tending to the rice paddies in outskirts of Haiphong, Vietnam. My pilot teacher who flies almost daily from Clark to Manila, Philippines. The casino dealers that handle three times as much money as Las Vegas in Macau. The farmer-entrepreneurs who taught themselves to read and start a home-stay business in the mountains of L’in-an, China. The 50-year old lady boy from Thailand I met in Shanghai. The backpacker in Chiang Mai, Thailand who sold all of his possessions and dropped everything to travel the world indefinitely. The world is so big.
I looked back at my little world of bubbles. In those pretty, pink and constrained spaces, my priorities were larger than life. I thought I had full freedom to make choices, but didn’t realize I had already limited my pool of possibilities.
Now, I’m back in my land of bubbles. For the next two years, my professional track is set. To a certain extent, my ‘hood, my friends, and my lifestyle are established. But my thought process, my aspirations, and my hobbies can now transcend old boundaries.
The bubbles are bursting.