As of a few days ago, I can return to Europe. A non-EU citizen such as myself can only be in the European Union’s Schengen Zone for 90 out of 180 days. I was there for three months, meaning I must leave for at least three months. Well, that three-month period has now passed. At this moment, I’m in Ohio and have no immediate plans to go back to Europe. I can say, though, that the passing of this date certainly did not go unnoticed. It also brought some fresh observations and questions to mind.
Given my work experience in restaurants, it wasn’t long before I got a serving job here in Ohio. This job allows me to pay my bills while also having the free time to keep up on this blog, among other things. What’s more, I often find myself in a genuinely good mood while I am at work. For all of this, I am very thankful. I realize that there are people who can’t say any of this about their own job situations.
(As a quick aside, this restaurant is in my hometown. I’ve already recognized several people, some of whom I haven’t seen in 12 years or more. There’s a strange sensation I get when I see someone I once knew after such a long period. Simply put, I can see the differences in age. Whether I realize it or not, I, too, have gotten older. These people are different than those I knew 12 years ago, and so am I. It’s a humbling thought.)
However, I come back to the fact that working in a restaurant is not what I would like to be doing at this point in my life. When I say this, though, I have to pause to consider my motives and my mindset. Am I merely displaying my privilege? Or, am I striving for more than I have now?
The line between contentment and settling is different for everyone, and each of us has to figure it out for ourselves.
If I’m going to be entirely honest, there’s probably more behind the uncertainty regarding my satisfaction. I’ve noted previously that I’m 31 as I write this. I can’t help but wonder, ‘As a 31-year-old, should I have things more figured out than I do? Should I be more established?’ While I was traveling, these questions didn’t bother me so much. At times, I even wore my unconventionality as a badge of honor. Yet now, amid societal norms and expectations, these questions trouble me more than they have in the past.
This leads me to another question, one that is at the core of what it means to live a happy life.
Where is the line between contentment and settling?
It is, of course, important for us to be satisfied with our respective positions in life. There are certain facts about ourselves that we are unable to change. However, that doesn’t mean we must simply and unquestioningly accept where we are now. The line between contentment and settling is different for everyone, and each of us has to figure it out for ourselves.
My friend Amanda (from this story) wrote to me recently saying that, at this point in her life, she’s committed to growing where she is. She suggested that now may be the time for me to do the same. I’m seeking to do just that. Yes, I’ve undergone growth more rapidly through traveling, and there is the part of me that wants more of this drastic change. What’s more, I love the excitement and the adventure of traveling. However, excitement and radical growth are not always possible, nor are they always best. Small, daily habits and routines are often just as important as the big changes we undergo. Sometimes, they’re more important. I want to take advantage of the time I have now so that, when given new opportunities, I will (hopefully) make the most of them.
How long this period at home is going to last, though, is another thing to consider. (I’ve been told in the past that a key to finding truth is not having all the answers, but knowing which are the right questions to ask. Given the sheer number of questions in this post, hopefully this means I’m getting somewhere). Again, I have no definite plans now, but that’s not necessarily a guarantee of permanence. I have made extreme changes in the past.
For now, however, I’m simply going to do the best I can to be content and grow where I am. Much of life is about striking a balance, and I see this as a season for me to find that balance.
I’ll close with the beautiful, succinct, and appropriate words of Reinhold Niebuhr’s ‘Serenity Prayer’.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
A pilgrimage is an intensely personal journey, but it is not one that a pilgrim undertakes alone. I don’t want to ‘talk’ into a vacuum. I want to hear other voices, too. What I’m trying to say is, I want feedback! Have I spoken something to you? Is there something you think I should know? Do you have a question about something I said? Please leave a comment below or contact me at Pilgrim.Brett@gmail.com
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