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Monday, 12 December 2016

Love vs. Loss: Having the [global] world at our fingertips while also holding dearly onto 'home.'

You’ve probably heard that cliché saying that it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. I’ve contemplated this saying over the past few months for a number of different reasons, and I think I do believe that it speaks truthfully and wisely. And I think it can apply to the more general sort of love associated with good friends and a community—certainly it feels that way for me. I’m “home” in Ottawa right now visiting with friends and family, but between Canada, India, and the UK, I feel like I am torn between a few different “homes” lately. (Certainly, the USA border guard who clarified with me “so you’re a student in the UK…but you’re living in India…and you came here for a conference…but you’re going now to Canada?” seemed just as flustered/confused by my high rate of international travels.)

A screenshot of the major cities I've traveled to since August

I have seen a LOT of the world in the past 5 years and I’m really glad I’ve been able to live and travel in a lot of different cities and countries.

(I tried making a map that pointed to all the places I've traveled to but frankly it got a bit overwhelming..!)

But I must admit: the shittiest thing about having done part of my undergrad in New Brunswick, going to India regularly enough to develop a solid community of friends there, and now studying in the UK (at a uni that attracts people from all over the world at that) is that now there's all these people I love who are absolutely not in the same city ../country../timezone../continent. So we're not talking a 3 hour drive to visit someone, but like, multiple hours in an airplane across various oceans. And even though I've been fortunate (?careless?) enough to spend the time and money to fly over said bodies of water on a somewhat regular basis, I'm still never able to be with all my loved ones at once. 

You see, I used to live in this tiny little house with lovely little people and we did little things like grow tomatoes and wash dishes and laugh loudly and rescue spiders and and write poetry on the communal chalk board and play 'keep it up' at the neighbourhood swimming pool and record music in our living room. 'Twas a good simple little life. Now I live oceans away from all of them. 

This is the thing that no one warns you about when they encourage you to be adventurous, to spread your wings and see the world. People warned me about missing home (check), about the difficulties of meeting new people and feeling connected (check), about culture shock (check), about traveler’s sickness (check check), and about various other things typically associated with travelling/moving abroad…and I think I’ve dealt with all of these things pretty well, all things considered… but few people warned me of the danger of establishing relational ties across a number of different cities/continents. 

I call this photo: "The danger of establishing relational ties" ft. my Cambridge friend Rebekah. (Now Rebekah and I are far away and we very well might never see each other again. WHAT!?!? Horrible.)

Don’t get me wrong—I couldn’t have it any other way. That is to say, there’s no way that I could be happy living in a city or country where I don’t make an effort at establishing roots and forming/joining a community of loving people. I would shrivel up and die without such things. But sometimes I wonder how wise it is to have placed roots in so many different places. Because now, wherever I am, there’s a significant portion of my loved ones who will always be miles and miles and oceans away from me. And to be honest that’s not always the best feeling.

Sunset streets in Dubrovnik, Croatia

I consider it a wonderful privilege and blessing to have been able to not only visit a number of cities but to actually feel connected and become a part of a community there. In many ways, there is something incredibly amazing and beautiful about this. But there’s something to be said for simplicity. This is the same simplicity that many people of my generation quickly brush off because “it’s not adventurous enough,” or the same simplicity that some people of my parent’s and grandparent’s generation encourage me (with nothing but the best of intentions) to rise above / go beyond. This is the simplicity of staying put, and choosing the wild and crazy adventure of deeply loving the people and places who are already in your midst. (And, certainly, this need not be dull or boring in the slightest!)

This is my Babcia (grandmother). Her family moved from Poland to Canada when she was a young child and she grew up in Toronto and some surrounding areas. At risk of romanticising my grandparents' era, I sometimes wonder if my life would be simpler if I still sewed my own clothes and grew my own food and walked down the street to say hi to my family and friends who lived there.

But, despite all these reflections, I readily admit there is still something within me that yearns for radical adventure, and that wishes to cover large distances in an airplane so to see something or someone I’ve never seen before. I like being thrown into new and unfamiliar situations. I enjoy going periods where I don’t hear a word of English, and where I have to navigate through social customs and cultural cues. I enjoy the beauty and challenge of being out of my comfort zone, and I find that these are the sorts of experiences which most stretch and push me into becoming a more thoughtful, accepting, and loving person. I’m glad for these experiences.

Back in Gujarat, 2014 (?) when I was doing research on Jain panjrapols. In this photo, a Jain monk was blessing animals that had been rescued from a slaughter house.

This might be where the saying “all things in moderation” comes into play. I’m not sure. I think I’m still struggling to find my own balance in this regard. What are your thoughts? Do you crave adventure? Do you think adventure can be had within a familiar (maybe even mundane) environment? Is adventure more important than your existing communities/relationships? As always, would love to hear your thoughts below or by PM.

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