“There is nothing permanent except change.”
Tomorrow I’ll be moving from sunny Long Beach, California to even sunnier Sevilla, Spain. As my departure date nears, the most common question I hear is, “Are you excited?”
I tend to view this almost as a rhetorical question. Everyone expects the obvious answer: a resounding “Yes!” How could I not be? The opportunity to live in a foreign country for nine months (for the second time) is something only a fool wouldn’t be excited about.
So I always answer yes. And it’s technically true. I’m very excited to move to Spain. But every time I answer, it occurs to me that the truth is more complex than most people would care to hear.
Emotions on Top of Emotions
Embarking on any new journey usually involves a hodgepodge of different emotions. There’s the obvious excitement mentioned above, the fear and anxiety that come from heading into the unknown, and the sadness over leaving everyone and everything I know behind.
This emotional cocktail is something I’ve grown accustomed to over the years. I had my first taste of it right before my freshman year of college, when I was getting ready to move across the country to North Carolina. This was the first time I’d be leaving the safe confines of my home for more than a week and I really didn’t know what to expect.
To make things more complicated, I had just started dating the girl who would be my girlfriend for the next two and half years. As anyone who has been in a long-distance relationship can attest to, all this did was amplify my emotions. During those two years, every transition to and from school felt like a momentous event, each one more emotionally draining than the last.
Oh how things have changed since then…
Now, as I prepare to make my second move to a foreign country, my emotional response is much more subtle than it was during those college years. Excitement has become quiet anticipation, fear has subsided into low-level anxiety, and sadness has transformed into a mild melancholy.
A Life in Flux
This change is the result of a couple things. At the most basic level, big transitions just start to become routine. I’ve gotten so used to (over)packing my suitcase that it hardly registers as a big deal any more. Don’t get me wrong though. This doesn’t mean I no longer get excited about traveling. I live for it. I’d go so far as to say it’s my oxygen. But just like oxygen, I usually don’t consider its importance until it’s gone.
On a deeper level, I think this emotional shift has a lot to do with my growing interest in different eastern religions and philosophies.
I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts that one of my favorite books is the Tao Te Ching, an ancient Taoist text written by Lao Tzu. The major theme of the Tao Te Ching is learning to go with the flow of nature, which is constantly changing. By doing this, we can achieve a constant inner peace.
While I’m no perfect practitioner of “going with the flow,” I do believe this idea has rubbed off on me in the past couple of years. In any case, I’ve come to appreciate the ever-changing nature of life.
It’s easy to look back on parts of our lives and see them as fixed stages: we were kids, then teenagers, and then young adults. This perspective is only enhanced by the way our school systems work. For years at a time we are stuck in one place, doing the same routines over and over. Then, when that arbitrary time limit is reached, we evolve like Pokemon and advance to the next stage. And once again we’re stuck there for another set period of time.
Yet if we were to look closely at these seemingly distinct stages, we would see that everything was in constant flux. We were always growing, always changing. Our physical features were constantly evolving. New ideas were forming in our heads. We were experiencing an array of different emotions. The degree of these changes might have varied, but they were always happening. They still are.
Our lives are constantly in transition.
So as my move to Spain approaches, instead of being overwhelmed by excitement or fear – both of which I still experience – I feel a quiet contentment knowing that this is just one of many transitions in my life. To fear it would be foolish; but to believe this change will finally bring me lasting happiness would be just as absurd.
As dispassionate as that may sound, it’s only through this attitude of detachment that I am able to fully appreciate the nuances this journey of life has to offer.