I was sitting on my back porch overlooking the wild forest 20 meters from my house, listening to the cicadas and feeling the warm summer breeze brush against my skin, only to feel completely and utterly lost. I moved back home after my big 2 year tour of the world, only to feel that my once small and quaint home felt stifling and claustrophobic. After 2 years of vibrant cultures, striking vistas and exciting people, I was stuck in a place that was slow, static and unfulfilling.
I had just turned 25 and the world had stopped spinning and I was forced to look at myself. I didn’t feel “successful.” I didn’t live in an big or exciting city like I dreamed of when I was a teenager, and I didn’t have a boyfriend, I didn’t even have a job! I compared my life to all the checkboxes that mark “success,” and I came up short. My whirlwind trip around the world had taught me so much about myself, had changed me in countless ways and yet here I was, stuck.
Stuck in my hometown.
Stuck in a negative thought loop of how I am not doing what I “should” be doing.
Stuck in this feeling of failure compared to my peers.
My new mantra began to be “if only.”
IF ONLY I lived in a more exciting city I would have more friends.
IF ONLY I lived in a more exciting city I could meet men worth dating.
IF ONLY I lived in another city I could find a job that lights me up.
All my problems would be solved if I lived somewhere else in the world.
A paradise where I could step out of my cage and fly free.
Then something shifted for me. I began to dive deep into my meditation practice and this black void that once held my dissatisfaction with life began to fill with light. As though day by day, this small light grew brighter and brighter until I felt weightless. All of a sudden it didn’t matter what other people were doing, it didn’t matter I didn’t live in some big bustling city, it didn’t matter I didn’t have a boyfriend or wasn’t making loads of money, the only thing that mattered was the moment I was living in.
For the first time in my life, I understood what it meant to be PRESENT.
I remember taking a walk through my neighborhood one afternoon, when I noticed how the afternoon sun was dancing on the golden brown leaves of the trees, and the wind was sweeping through them like a wind chime made of jewels. I noticed the sound of the birds singing, the ruffle of the small animals scampering through the trees and the feeling of the cool and crisp autumn breeze caressing my cheeks in a cold kiss. It was beautiful. All of it. Every piece of my surroundings was a beautiful masterpiece that I hadn’t noticed until now. It felt like a dark curtain had been lifted. My mind was finally clear and I could see everything. I was no longer clouded by the endless thoughts that ran through my head like parade of criticisms.
Perhaps all along my cage was of my own making.
I started to see my lemons for what they were, fruits of the earth whose tart juices could be sweet nectar if I let them. I started to meet people in my community who I resonated with, I started to appreciate how slow things were, how I could drive from one end to the other in 20 min, how everyone smiled, how I could watch the sunset over the lake, how I could stumble upon turkeys mating or deer prancing through the grass. I appreciated the quiet. I appreciated nurturing relationships with loved ones. My favorite events of the week were dinner parties with my closest friends, my family and my new boyfriend. (Yes I even met someone)
I started to feel completely full and happy exactly where I was.
When I came to Bali 5 months ago, I thought I had landed in paradise. But after living here for 5 months, my biggest revelation was that I am no more happy here than I was at home.
In this I found complete freedom.
Because paradise cannot be named on a map, it cannot be a place that promises heavenly rewards.
Paradise can only be found within.
And you take it with you always.