Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Building Rome

A holiday can be the perfect window of time to reexamine your life from afar. Free days spent wandering through another city, listening to a different language, and exploring the way others live has always made me consider how I live and how I most want to live.  

This past week, I was in a city that is practically sacred to me: Amsterdam. After several months there studying during university, I was overwhelmed with inspiration and desire. It affected the rest of my university career activities and I quickly returned to graduate school and began working in international education. I moved to Boston and cultivated a lifestyle that incorporated European ideals and American realism (and a lot of cheese). Not every dream came true, but not every dream is meant to.  I was - and am - very lucky for these opportunities and experiences.

IT had been six years since my first time in Amsterdam, in Europe, abroad, alone. And while it felt like coming home when I walked out of Centraal Station and into the canals, I had become so much more of myself in those half a dozen years.

My wanderlust is monumental; I know I will go back to Amsterdam and to a multitude of other places. For now I face the reexamining of my ‘real’ life: my career, my relationships, my daily habits, good and bad. I want to change and grow and accomplish so much. I’ve carried home hundred of photographs and ideas, bits of writing and more Dutch vocabulary, and I want to fulfill every dream I stumbled across in those canals. But instead, I can’t stop weeping. The goals I set for myself always seem a few steps ahead, just out of reach. There are so many things I wish to do and complete, but I fall short more days than not. Notoriously hard on myself, I wake up each morning convinced I’ve been reborn and today will be the day I do everything i set out to do and ultimately - inevitably - i am disappointed.

This morning the idiom “Rome wasn’t built in a day” drifted into my head as I surveyed the teetering piles of paperwork covering my desk. I thought of the half un-packed bags at home and the unmade dinner and my lack of muscle definition and I finally realized the answer: patience.  Seemingly so simple and obvious, but in the modern rush to be everything to everybody and have really nice hair, I had gotten overwhelmed and tried to do it all at once. Nothing beautiful or great comes into existence immediately; masterpieces do not materialize out of thin air. Be it a novel or a truly great painting or just a decently organized house, I could not accomplish any of them without putting in the time. And in putting in the time, allowing myself time. There is not one half-decent book written in 12 hours nor a perfectly appointed house decorated just right as soon as one moves in; how could I expect to accomplish either?

So I aim to be kinder and more reasonable to myself. I know I will fail at that, and fall back into writing lists of lists and trying to outshine Martha Stewart / J.K. Rowling / the Duchess of Cambridge. And I know I will inevitably outpace myself and let myself down again; old habits die hard.  But hopefully I can remember that like Rome, I wasn’t built in a day either.


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