What Happened When I Failed to Plan and Followed My Curiosity Instead
WARNING: this post is not about the life of a 20-something, who traveled to more than 23 countries across the globe in 2015.
It’s not about someone who managed to read a 100 books last year either. Neither is this post about someone whose career kicked off big time. I didn’t launch any products or publish any books. No, I didn’t quit my job and find my life’s calling either, nor did I become a social media sensation. So if you were expecting to read about that and get inspired to become a super version of yourself on steroids, Stop reading right here. Alternatively, reach out to me privately and I’ll share with you links to such inspiring stories.
This post is simply about a 20-something who wrote a somewhat modest ‘Desire-list’ last December, and like most people ended up crossing off a few items only.
My ‘Desire List’ may sound dull to some people; I didn’t wish to climb mount Everest or volunteer to teach children in Africa. Instead, my list contained relatively simple items, like a trip to Paris and trying out a new recipe each week. I did not even end up achieving these things, yet learned a lot about myself along the way.
So read on to find out what I learned, maybe it will inspire you to reevaluate your own experiences and celebrate your accomplishments, big or small.
This year, my year in review came in the form of a wave of reflections on a December morning. My 2015 flashed right in front of my eyes in waves, while I stood in front of the mirror sipping my coffee and swiping on eye makeup. Flashes of moments, experiences, friends, and words came rushing through, and for once I felt content instead of weighed down. I felt pleased with the little that I had accomplished from my desire-list, and proud of all the other activities I ventured into, that were not confined to the contents of a piece of paper.
The Little that I’ve Crossed off My ‘Desire-List’
I went camping under the *stars* in Wadi Rum.
To be honest, it was much less of a romantic experience than it sounds. Yes, I got to see the Milky Way on a moonless night in the desert. But, I also ended up flying off a buggy and breaking my collarbone within the first ten minutes of arriving. It was probably one of the most frustrating experiences at the time, but it also really forced me to slow down and be patient with myself. And it goes without saying… but I’ve developed a heightened sense of appreciation for my collarbone of course.
I set out to read 24 books this year but I only read 9.
No, this was not part of Mark Zukerberg’s reading challenge, in case you were wondering. The thing is, although I didn’t reach my target of going through two books a month, I was never not reading a book this year. I gave each one the nine books the attention, time and reflection it deserved. I lingered on sentences that moved me and savored words that I loved. I must say that each book I read this year shaped a little bit of the person that I’ve become by end of it. Needless to say, I am still trying to figure out who that person is. I learned that it really does not matter if you read one book or a hundred books this year or lifetime. It’s not about how much you read, but how deep you reflect and what you take away.
After all ….
‘No two persons ever read the same book’ — Edmond Wilson.
I desired a trip to Paris but I ended up in Switzerland.
I attended a summer course on Higher Education for Emergencies at the University of Geneva. Well, I was crossing the Swiss/French border to get to my hotel everyday, so I was technically close to my desire, which was also a very inconvenient ride at the time. Nevertheless, I shared laughs with some amazing people on that bus ride. I also got to practice my French. I guess what I am trying to say here is that it’s experiences that count rather than the location. I still want to go to Paris, but I wouldn’t have traded my time in Switzerland for anything.
I wanted to get a second ear piercing but dyed my hair pink.
I think the pink hair was a braver move. It was frankly just more of me responding to my impulse, too bad it only lasted for ten days before fading off completely. Maybe I can cross this one off under the ‘change-something-in-your-appearance’ category. Although, to be fair, I didn’t have categories on my list.
I hoped to write 24 blog posts, but I only wrote this one.
Well I wrote two of the most viewed research phase posts on OpenIDEO’s Refugee Education challenge and a couple of short captions on Instagram. Yet I had really hoped to share more of my personal reflections. I wanted to write about the things that keep me up at night, the moments that move me to tears, my reoccurring dreams, my epiphanies and more. I still want to do so, but I need to plan it better this time around. Again, maybe they won’t be 24 posts, but it’ll be me writing something and putting it out in the world for scrutiny and hopefully inspiration.
My list covers other desires that I didn’t even come close to realizing, but these were the things that stood out to me the most.
The Much that I Desired ….
While I didn’t end up crossing off that much of my so called ‘Desire-list’, I realized that the list was not designed to be crossed off anyway. It was more about allowing myself to desire doing things and these desires changed over the course of the year.
I longed to be part of a choir again.
So I auditioned for a local choir and got rejected. I was a bit disappointed after filling a three pages long application form, which, by the way, included a question about the length of my toes. Putting rejection aside, I continued to have private concerts in my car while practicing the art of getting unnoticed by other drivers at the traffic lights. It’s probably worth writing a separate post about that topic later at some point.
I signed up for a Contemporary dance class.
Signing up for this class might have really been the best thing that happened to me this year. My dance class instructor thinks I am trying to embody a tree in my solo performance, terribly so, if she could say it without discouraging me, but she won’t. My friend on the other hand, thinks my dance is about fishing. While, in all honestly, I cannot figure out what the hell is it that I am trying express.
This not knowing element kind of reminds me of this Joni Mitchell song…
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
The truth is, I couldn’t care less what my dance means. The outcome is not supposed to matter after all, right? Well, at least, that’s what Elizabeth Gilbert writes in her latest book. She must be on to something that Liz Gilbert, given all of her success in the creative field. I am also trying to take Leo Babuta’s advice and embrace the suck. I know reading so many self-help books and blogs is bound to get the best of me one day, but I seem to enjoy being a self-help junkie for now.
I sat in many circles.
I sat in circles on empty stages, a circle on a pavement in a park, circles in conferences in different countries, circles on classroom floors in Geneva, circles at wedding parties and many circles in my mind. I even span in circles around myself in a Sufi dance workshop and morphed into a trance like state that brought me down on my knees in tears.
I don’t know what is the point that I am trying to make here exactly, but circles seem to have been a big emerging theme for me this past year. Perhaps circles have always been a big theme for me and for many people, but I’ve only come to realize this pattern now, and this must mean something. I feel like this humble revelation of mine deserves to be reflected differently too. Perhaps in an art piece or a solo dance that no one will understand.
I shared tea with strangers.
Sitting in circles brought me to siting next to many people from varied backgrounds, values, life circumstances, beliefs and food sharing etiquette. I sat next to a man who insisted on serving me tea after picking his toes, for heaven’s sake! I tried my best to welcome his generous gesture and ignore the fact that he held the tea cup from the top rim.
This incident reminds me of a story in Maya Angelou’s book ‘Letter to My Daughter’, where she talks about being served a cup of coffee containing crawling bugs by a tribal woman in Morocco. Maya later found out that she was served coffee with expensive raisins not bugs; an African tribal gesture for honoring guests. I wish I could say that picking your toes before serving people tea is considered a sign of Jordanian tribal appreciation (not really), but it’s not. So let’s just say, there is nothing heroic about this story except that I managed to accept this man’s kind gesture gracefully. In any case, I really wanted to have this non-heroic story documented somewhere, for absolutely no specific purpose.
There is much more about my 2015 that is probably worth documenting, but these were the top highlights that crossed my mind. I failed miserably to achieve anything I listed on my ‘Desire List’ by not planning any of it, but I did allow my desires to change over the course of the year by following my curiosity.
Now over to you, when was the last time you allowed your curiosity to guide you? Where did it end up leading you?
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