There is something unique in growing up between two continents and two potential life settings. I was raised as a dual citizen, Greek and American with double the chances and double the opportunities than anyone placed and rooted in just one country. With this fortitude however, came great fret of where to rest.
I have always greatly admired the wanderers, the nomads, anyone who can just pick their things up and go someplace new with as less agony and doubt as possible. For me however, this ever-changing scenery came with a tendency to disengage. I was in school during the winter and spring, waiting to fly across the world during the summer for an internship. When there, I knew I was going back before the new semester and this cycle of traveling kept going until after graduation.
Now, people who are found in similar circumstances can choose to seize life, interactions and the new individuals that come across their ways and to make the best of it. But for me it was different. Before I went, I felt a wave of anxiety and unsettlement blow under my body so I decided to ride the wave and go with it. Without realising it, I was floating in bubble-wrap between new experiences.
My method of damage control was not conscious. In fact, I only realised I was doing everything or - as little as I could - to protect me from feeling sad when I had to go, after I settled for graduate school. Make friends but don’t expect to have them forever because you are going. Get in relationships but don’t get too comfortable because what if you find a job in another country? Get excited but not too excited about school because it is going to be over soon. Rules after rules that all mindfulness instructors would advise against but there I was, reminding myself again and again: Be careful. Be free. Be cautious.
And how else to achieve carefreeness with pre-packed suitcases than through disengagement? Through not being present? Through showing up but always having your mind on the next flight and then the next one and then the next one? This schedule seemed to work fine until I decided to settle and came to find myself unable to snap out of my detached but secure, liberating but lonely, safeguarded self.
Before pausing and allowing myself to feel safe and open up to building something that felt like home, I sensed that disengagement is a state that I could consciously jump in and out of whenever I wanted. But I was wrong. So here are three things I found out about disengagement:
1) I believe that people have a disengagement quota in their bodies: the more they practise it, the more it sticks with them and the more difficult it is to get back to their normal, present selves.
2) Disengagement can be a bulletproof uniform to protect you from harm but it is also resilient to allowing the good to sink in: it may be fortunate to dive into cold waters wearing a swimsuit that is impervious to cold but what if you happened to jump into thermal springs?
3) You will never feel 100% ready to engage: things could always be better and times could always be more favourable to live but, whether you like it or not, this is it.
This is your life. And time flies. So engage to the now. Engage to the setting. Engage to the experience and engage to the people you find around you. Yes, you will get hurt but there is no other way to make sure you will live too.
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