It’s not long now ‘til I jet-set my way across the planet. In fact, I counted today: I only have six days left at my current job. Scary, huh? After a good year of security and solidity… six days.
But I shouldn’t be worried! It’s exciting! I’m already clawing to get out and meet my mates who have already left (I’ve seen photos of them in Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro enjoying the summer… how do you think that makes me feel while shivering my ass off in Adelaide. Fun loving bastards! How dare you enjoy life?)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I ended up taking this opportunity for student exchange when, traditionally, I’ve never really been adventurous. Admittedly, a few years ago I felt like I’d done all my travelling in my childhood and teens and that what I wanted was a quiet life. Who wants to think about all that nonsense in Spain or France? Better just forget they exist, right?
So why go on this whirlwind adventure?
I’m a born creature of comfort, and have only just really come out of my shell and started taking the big risks that make life worth it. I’m happier and more positive now than I have been for a while just because I’m taking some major steps forward in my personal development; pushing my boundaries, so to speak. That’s not to say that everyone has to or wants to have the boundaries pushed, though. Different strokes for different folks, and all that.
Emerging from my squalid bachelor cocoon I have found that the world offers amazing opportunities, and that with a bit of courage and energy, you can stride out and grab them… but that’s not why I signed up for exchange.
The real reason… well, it was an Ego Trip, wasn’t it?
Most (and I actually mean, statistically, most) of my close Facebook friends have been overseas within the last few years, or otherwise had amazing adventures and opportunities that have changed their lives. Along with that, of course, comes the photos; the selfies in front of cathedrals and coral reefs, the sunset shots over lost cities and blurry, drunken bar pics from Canada.
I struggled with this, knowing I was stuck in Adelaide for the time being, looking for a career and painting Warhammer. I admit it, I got a little jealous. So when my two mates from Uni decided to sign up for exchange, I tagged along.
It was a relatively quick process to pick the destination. Europe?: check. Courses in English?: Check. Relatively low cost of living?: Che… uhh, debatable, but…. Okay! Germany it is!
It all happened so fast I didn’t even get to think. But in the end we all signed our pact together, and made the commitment to travel to Germany. It’s not a decision I regret now, but a few months ago my stomach was revolting against my brain, trying to tell me I’d made some sort of mistake.
But anyway, the point is that I signed up for exchange because my friends did and also because it would be my last chance before finishing my undergraduate degree. That was my mistake. That was what made my stomach revolt. I bowed to the pressures of Facebook and decided, to be cool and respected and bathed in Likes, that I had to do it. I wanted to show people I could do it, rather than actually do it.
And that, my people, is the problem.
A lot of us (not going to generalise and say “all”) see the instant gratification of a Facebook or Instagram Like and get addicted. We end up competing against others, becoming jealous, greedy, comment-hungry. It’s something I succumbed to but something I am also defeating.
My recent partner put me on to something called “Desire Mapping”, which is something that has definitely helped on my journey towards ego-reduction. Instead of looking for the instant gratification or for things that fulfil our ego’s needs rather than soul’s needs, we should be looking to our very deepest desires. Our entrenched feelings should guide the way to the soul, because they apparently reside in the soul, or at least in its neighbourhood. Maybe they say “hi” to each other on the way to work.
Combined with some meditation and cognitive behavioural alteration, I’ve begun to move away from the feelings of jealousy and greed, away from the things that people give power to by obsessing over, and towards the things that make me happy in my own life. Güt, ja?
I can say it’s working pretty well, actually. I still sometimes feel a bit lame when I see “Croatian beach pictures feat. friends” while I’m lying on the floor of my room in my pyjamas, but that’s natural right? At least now I don’t feel the gnawing, gnashing pain at the heart that came from jealousy. I was destroying myself. Now I’m building myself back up, minus the inflated ego.
We should be happy for our friends and their adventures, not competitive. Life is an individual pursuit of happiness/enlightenment/truth etc. etc. that is made all the better by the love and support of friends. True, you can feel jealous now and again, but if it’s happening all the time maybe that’s a sign that something does need to be changed?
Let these painful feelings spur you on to creativity and change. If you truly, deep-down, feel like you need to do something to be happy, then do everything you can to make it happen. There are benefits to feeling shitty. There is a beauty in pain, confusion and absurdity (at least an artistic sort of beauty). But the trouble comes when we focus solely on them.
The Universe is absurd and chaotic, but through that chaos it is also balanced. It doesn’t go one way or the other. We are the ultimate filter of this chaos, because what we focus on expands in our own lives. If, as Carl Sagan said, we are a way for the Universe to know itself, then we can only teach the Universe to be cruel if that is all we choose to see.
So we have to accept the good, to filter it into our lives and turn the crappy into something to move us forward (if we can). Without this way of thinking I would still be freaking out about taking an ego-trip to Germany. My acceptance of personal happiness has finally let me become more excited than stressed.
I’d love to hear your own thoughts on how to avoid ego-tripping. Let me know!