Breaking the Mold

Origin: Ponderings on a rainy day in Paraguay.

Subject:  A limited attempt to justify my actions.

You know how when you put water in an ice tray, bag, or anything and then freeze it the water expands? If you’re not careful, the ice will break the container as it freezes or you end up with not-so-aesthetic ice cubes.

I feel like freezing water—the mold trying to keep me in shape will not hold up. I’m already overflowing, just imagine what’s going to happen when I solidify. Living and working abroad is the freezer, I’m the water molecule, and the molds are who I think I am and who I try to be. I often view myself as a homebody, but a homebody that tends to try to live more like a cosmopolite. Thinking about ice cubes made me realize, however, that I don’t fit nicely into the homebody or cosmopolite types.

Familiar. Routine. Known. Planned. Those are all things that I’ve always thought were important, and without which I’m usually harried, uncomfortable, and general miserable. But, at the same time, my fondest memories archive events that arose from spontaneity and going beyond my routine. And, I often do things to leave my routine behind: studying abroad for a time in high school, leaving Vermont to study in Washington, DC for college, and joining the Peace Corps. This juxtaposition in my personality—being comfortable only with the familiar but wanting and taking action to explore the unknown—started to make me wonder if I’m a masochist.

Don’t worry, after a thoroughgoing investigation I can say with certain confidence I am not a masochist. I just misjudged my character. I will explain.

When I left for a semester in Spain my junior year of high school people said it would change my life, and that I’d have amazing memories forever. When I left for college, people said to cherish my time studying because those years would be my best. When I left for the Peace Corps, people justified my leaving by reassuring me that the experience would be profound and the pinnacle in my life. I believed them, and now I think those thoughts were based at least partially on flawed assumptions.

All those times add up to more or less 6 years of my life. I am 25 and I want to live for a while yet. Were people telling me that my best years are now almost over? That might be the greatest tragedy that fate’s devised. I won’t accept that my life is a tragedy. What people meant to say, I think, was that studying abroad, college, and Peace Corps would be awesome because they would change up my routine and make life a fresh adventure.

“A fresh adventure”, that is the point of this rant. I like routine and familiar because they are easy. I periodically leave behind most everything that fits into the known not because I want to torture myself, but because comfort isn’t enough for me. I am on the trail of something else, and if I have to be uncomfortable sometimes to get there, it is a worthy sacrifice.

I do not think I could handle the life of a nomad; I’m just not that flexible. Nor do I think a fresh adventure is based entirely on changing location. However, I am reminded of the quote that pops into my mind more than any other as I go about my doings, “You have more power over your life than you think you do.”

In my heart I know I can not be happy just talking about the old times. Trying to accept the ordinary makes me restless. I am not a great adventurer or the bravest person, but I’m not scared to expand. I don’t want to just remember glory days, I want to be ever on the path of times worth retelling. That’s what I realized. Changing things up is scary, if it were easy everyone would do it. There’s always a chance for a real flop. But, since I can remember my favorite stories have always been those of people who took a leap. There is a beautiful, quaint simplicity to the stories of people who have spent all of their lives in the same place. But, there is something exciting and fantastic about those who can call more than one place home and who can say they’ve dabbled in many things. Molds are a way of setting a baseline. They’re a suggestion. As all expectations, molds are something to be surpassed.