"Wait, How Did You End Up in Minnesota?"
On the morning of June 15th, I said my final goodbyes to my brothers and relocated 1,200 miles across the country to a small town in northern Minnesota. My newly purchased 2009 Honda Civic coupe provided the perfect dose of humility and just enough space to pack my TV, air mattress, some clothes, two pairs of shoes, and kitchenware. You'd imagine the planning process to be relatively simple, requiring minimal effort on my end. In reality, I'm easily top 10 WORST packers of all time this was by far the worst packing experience I've encountered. What does one gather in preparation for moving to the unknown for the next 2-3 years when limited to a two-door? The answer to that question looks different for everyone.
You're probably wondering what the driving force was that caused me to uproot and change scenery. The truth is that a sequence of life events placed me in a situation where I was presented a life-shifting opportunity. At the time, I perceived it as a career-defining opportunity, and all I needed to do was take a leap of faith and make the cross-country move. All along, the plan was to secure the job that proposed the highest salary and offered the best benefits package within proper reason the company's mission aligned with my passion for serving others. Here I am, with 3 arduous (emphasis on the arduous) years of grad school under my belt. I deserve the best, right? Not to mention, I could finally do and afford what I felt like I've been missing out on while in grad school because I believed I fell behind in life and had to play catch-up with my peers (the most prominent illusion our generation faces). So yeah, I jumped on it. I accepted the position.
I left all of my belongings behind...an entire lifestyle that played a significant role in developing my view of the world. A long list of superficial items that once consumed a considerable amount of my energy and attention now existed only in thought and memory. As days became weeks and weeks turned to months, I slowly forgot about their existence. A lifestyle change requires not only patience but a zealous effort to accommodate the internal conflict accompanied by the adjustment. For me, the mental and emotional acclimation was rugged and abrupt. I was quickly made aware of my many "weaknesses" that existed deep within. It took time to understand they weren't weaknesses, but action items I needed to focus on. I was oblivious to them because I never took a break from life to stop and objectively reflect on the progression of my journey. Fears, insecurities, guilt, regret, and childhood traumas began to present themselves randomly as I became more attentive. What lay deeper than the emotions themselves was the realization that I was forced into a state of finding comfort in aloneness for the first time in my life. How many of us truly know how to be alone? Take a second... Never in my 20-something years have I gone multiple months without seeing a single person who wore the same color skin as me. Not to mention COVID-19 was (and is still) aggressively serving uppercuts and haymakers to innocent bystanders with the strength of Thanos. The rope to my emotional escape (access to my village) I've always been reliant on had been severed and was completely inaccessible. I'm here to say life alone in the middle of nowhere during a global pandemic can be top-tier spooky - what I considered to be one of the most humane forms of solitary confinement a person could endure.
One day I woke up, and the lightbulb went lit up. It clicked. I figured out why perspective is critical when faced with trying times. I wasn't in solitary confinement at all. My new environment was teaching me something new. It was teaching me that there is so much to acquire when you have less. It can be difficult, but you have to put forth the effort to remove the background noise. Fortunately, my background noise was removed for me. Once I began to find peace in being by myself, I experienced generous amounts of joy from the "little" things: being able-bodied, going on unsolicited walks, discovering true self-interests, learning about the innermost parts of myself that my busy schedule concealed. The most important thing I achieved was soul rest. Being busy 24/7 can be damaging to many aspects of our lives. My new environment revealed to me that I've been suppressing fears in my constant state of busyness, which inadvertently manifested indecisiveness and self-doubt. These manifestations resulted in poor decisions that affected those closest to me. My new environment allowed me to notice the things I was unaware of so that I could address them properly. Sometimes we tend to fall prey to the vicious cycle of wanting more. Some of the things we place at the top of our radars become the very things that rob us of life's simple, yet greatest pleasures.
In hindsight, I wasn't offered a career-defining opportunity; instead, a rare moment to learn a series of valuable lessons I desperately needed to grasp. The nature of our fast-paced society does nothing but create smoke and mirrors. Take the time to enjoy who/what truly matters most to you before they no longer exist. We're all one mishap away from having to sweep up the shattered fragments of our lives and start from square one. Don't let those metaphorical fragments be someone or something important you ignored for the sake of a lifestyle. Appreciate the beauty life has to offer and love on your people every moment you can. I promise they'll last longer in memory than the tangibles.
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