As shown at the end of this post, I do not usually display pictures like this, but words cannot express the beauty that the West Coast has to offer the senses. The land seems to resemble an alien landscape; trees that were fit for Goliath himself, staggering cliffs that would bring a kiss of fear to the Angel of Death, and natural wonders that inspire a divine presence in those who witness their might.
For the past month, two other companions and I wandered through the west coast with no plan nor purpose. We decided to go there on a limb, hoping to find a lifeboat in the sea on unpredictability. I tried my best to have an ancient stoic mindset; not expecting anything, yet to keep rolling with the punches when adversity arises. What I discovered was an adventure of a lifetime that was full of peaks and valleys, and has further cemented my values of love, mindfulness, and patience.
Lessons I Learned
- Appreciate America. We do not realize how lucky we are as American citizens in that we can travel such vast distances so easily and find commonality in language and culture. In addition, there is every kind of climate in America; from snow-capped mountains to tropical beaches and blistering dry deserts to alligator-infested swamps, there is no need for a passport to observe all these natural phenomena. One can embark on a day’s worth of travel anywhere else in the world and discover different ethnic groups not so far apart, with their origin myths and societal structures. America is still a new nation, and our origin myth is founded upon how we fought for the liberal ideals of individual rights and liberty during the American Revolution. Unlike other countries, what symbolizes being an American is not of race, religion, or language, but an oath to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution. Yes, I realize this country has room for improvement regarding equality, but I hope we all recognize that it is something that takes time and does not happen overnight. There will be steps forwards along with other measures backward. With awareness and perseverance, we can fulfill Martin Luther King’s dream, and we shall overcome the ignorance of the past.
- Extremists ruin everything. There has been a battle waged within humanity since the dawn of civilization. Moderates and Reformers yearn to evolve society and promote communication among different cultures. Love and tolerance are at the foundation of their values. Extremists, often religious, fight for their halted ideologies and foster a mindset that divides and subjugates people into a fallible hierarchy. Their fear and hatred weigh down our collective development like an anchor slowing down a ship. While staying in a hostel in Los Angeles, I remember speaking to an Iraqi national who complained how religious sects are ruining any chance of his home country of improving their standing. He could not stand how ISIS was beheading people and enslaving women in the name of Allah. I concurred and confessed that the same is true with here in the United States where religious extremists have driven polarization in the political process which stifles common sense compromises, disparage hatred on alternative lifestyles, and wage a prolonged war on women, all in the name of the Lord.
- Keep in contact with people who matter to you. Sometimes I do not realize how blessed I am to call so many different people from around the globe my friends. I have a philosophy that one way to measure the wealth of an individual is the quality of their relationships. When you are apart from people for a while, the connection stays on hold and can even evaporate. What I will try and do better is to keep in touch with those who have earned my admiration. In the era of Facebook and Snapchat, this digital age provides us with the tools we need to stay in touch with anyone for free. By the way, if you are someone who is reading this, and we had substantial moments together I would love to catch up with you sometime, just send me a message!
- Do not take things too personally. Just because you are witnessing the emotions of your brain and feeling how it affects your body does not mean that you matter. It may sound harsh, but you are only one person, in a world of 7 billion people, in a solar system where our planet is a pale blue dot. There are much larger events and circumstances that dictate how situations will play out, and you simply do not have control. But, the only thing you can have authority over is how you react to those situations. There were plenty of times when conflict arose during my escapades, and it caused me to reflect on how I reacted childishly in the past. I am far from perfect, but at least I am becoming aware of my place in time and space.
- There is no need to rush. On our journey, we had no responsibility nor constraints. We were floating from location to location, opening the Pandora’s Box of what each one had to offer. There was nothing set, and our plans were as fluid as the waves of the Pacific Ocean. In my regular daily life, I feel the pressures brought about by my obligations. So I guess the right question is how I can translate my west coast attitude to my east coast lifestyle? The answer is to do things at half speed. Why should I squeeze things in if they will only cause me unnecessary stress? Doing things at a slower pace will allow me to appreciate my surroundings more. As someone who has been bulldozing through life like a bull in a china shop, this is an area of my life that I could see benefits.
Talking is one thing, but acting on these lessons is a whole different level of commitment. You do not need a new year to come around to make a resolution. All you need is the will to do so.