Now that I am 24 years old and finally beginning to appreciate and enjoy who I am as a person, I fear that my new life struggle is that I am never satisfied in my current state. Whether on a small, day to day scale, or which direction I want to go in life, I feel like I always yearn to be somewhere else. 

    For the entirety of 2015 I worked as a barista in a bakery with lovely people for wonderful bosses. I was living at home with the best parents a girl could ask for, I was raking in the dough, I had days off to hike and backpack and camp or do whatever my heart desired. My friends were mostly close to home and available. We had the most beautiful summer on record. I look back on 2015 and think damn, that was one of the best years I’ve had in ages! And yet while in the midst of such an awesome year, I wanted nothing more than to get going on my travels in Australia. I was caught up in the rudeness of Bainbridge Islanders or the fact that I couldn’t have normal Monday through Friday work weeks like my other friends. I thought I was low on money when I would spend a bit, when in reality I didn’t know what being low on money was really like. So now that I have arrived on my big adventure, I’m currently adventuring, I want to go back? What is that shit? 

    So my fear is that I can never be content with where I am. Every new school year or every passing summer I would look back on the prior and think, Wow, that was the best one yet. If only I knew that while I was living it so that I could better appreciate it. I never fully appreciate or enjoy my current moment because I am too busy reflecting or wishing I was somewhere in the future.

    Is this a problem that only I suffer from? Or is it everyone? Now that I am in Australia, fucking Australia for Christ sake, I want to be elsewhere. I am looking forward to bopping around Asia, making mental plans for which countries to visit in what order and all of the amazing, brand new, awe striking experiences I am going to have. Or even further ahead, I can’t wait to get home. Home, the place I just spent the last year taking for granted and wanting to get away from. If not forward, I’m wishing I was back in 2015. When did Australia lose its glamor and become an annoyance to me? I focus on the bills I have to pay and the job I have to show up to and the boyfriend that gets on my nerves. Whence I move on, will I look back and wish I was exactly where I am right now?

    I suppose it makes sense of the phrase “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”. But I don’t want that phrase to apply to my life. I want to be grateful and aware of the wonderful things and experiences surrounding me while they are there. I don’t want to only appreciate something now that I don’t have it, that sounds so childish. 

    For the last couple years, around Christmas/New Years I pick a word, or an intention, to set for myself for the upcoming calendar year. For the onset of 2015, my word was ‘self love’. My entire life, and especially so throughout college, I dealt with a great deal of self loathing. I looked back on high school and before and thought, why was I so much happier back then than I am now? It only took me about four years to figure out that the reason I was so unhappy was because I had let myself fall into a permanent state of self loathing. It was a journey that I did not embark on alone, but I finally figured out how to love myself, accept myself for who and what I am, and focus a little less on what others thought about me. So I would say my word for 2015 was a success.

    I have been aware of this problem of not full appreciating the present for a while now, so the intention I set for  2016 was ‘presence’. It started out well, too. When we first arrived in Sydney, nothing was how we expected or particularly wanted it to be, but I fought through that inclination to be frustrated and dissatisfied, and accepted things for what they were. And what do you know! I look back and Sydney is a fond memory. But since then my bad habit has become even more blunt and obvious. While we were road tripping, devoid of running water, showers, cooking facilities or even the knowledge of where we were going, I wanted nothing more than to plant some roots and have a place to call home. It wasn’t the amenities I craved, but the solidarity. So much for thinking I’m a wandering soul. Yet now that we have planted the roots I so badly wanted, I want to get back on the road. 

    The answer is staring my blankly in the face: Just appreciate where I am. Clearly I have become a happy person and my life is full of all these incredible experiences I look back on and miss. So why can’t that feeling of appreciate be more immediate? I suppose it’s much easier said than done. Maybe it is something that only comes with age, wisdom, or a higher level of being. I look at other people who are out traveling the world and they act like they never want to come back, like they always want to see something new and never return to where they’ve already been. I would like to attribute that to those people not having as wonderful families and hometowns and childhood friends as me, but that doesn’t seem to be a solid pattern. Or maybe I should just bank on ‘everyone is different’, but that doesn’t help me with my issue. At least I am aware of it, and bringing that knowledge into my every day life and decision making. Half of me wants to pull up anchor and buy a ticket to Bali, with the intent of going north from there, then heading home to be back by Christmas. The other half of me knows that as soon as I go, I’ll miss it, just like every other past place or experience. The head and the heart are caught in an epic battle and I’m not sure who will win. 

Published by Alison Howe