I would honestly love for this narrative to be an epic chronicle of self-discovery, because Eat Pray Love made a lot of money and having a lot of money is very convenient…but alas, I’m not in Europe to find myself, so I can’t write my midlife crisis book yet. (Maybe when my midlife crisis hits??? Idk)
People cast the “girl-going-to-Europe” story in a lot of different lights, and this has created a general sort of confusion in my brain. One moment I feel like a twenty-year-old living a blissful adventure, and the next I’m viewing myself from the vantage point of a jaded fortysomething who looks at my Instagram pictures and sees an immensely privileged Gen Z who pRoBaBlY cAn’T aPpReCiAtE hAlF oF wHaT sHe hAs. Then the next moment I think, hmm, maybe I should use this time I’ve been given to work harder, keep my nose to the grindstone and write the pitch I’m trying to submit to a magazine–but then another voice in my head shouts at me, You’re in Europe! Go do something!!!!!!
After dealing with this internal conflict for a certain amount of time one begins to feel a lot like the baguette that my host mom sets out at every meal–pulled apart by different hands, spread out into crumbs across the dinner table, sometimes left untouched by certain American college students who enjoy bread but not when they are also having fried potatoes for dinner. Maybe a year ago I might’ve been tempted to go crazy, as I have many a time, struggling to fight against all the hands that threaten to rip me apart. Being young is fun, but it’s also scary, because you’re still so malleable. I move from one moment to the next thinking that the rug could be pulled out from under my feet at any second. Like, I could watch a particularly inspirational episode of Chef’s Table tomorrow and decide that I want to move to New York to become a pastry chef, and I’d still potentially have the guts to make it happen.
I mean, who knows?
The one thing that’s keeping me from going too crazy here, though, is the fact that even before I stepped on the plane that carried me to Madrid, I knew that I was not going to spend my time here trying to “find myself.” It’s not necessarily a terrible thing to do–sometimes self-reflection is necessary, and, like I said before, the fruit of that can make you a lot of money–but not every journey is one of self-discovery, and life is not one enormous Quest for Self. I thank God every day that it doesn’t need to be, because it means that I don’t have to live in that state of constant searching and longing. He has given us blessed assurance through the truth in Romans 8: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…so what have I to fear? My life is not about me, as paradoxical as that sounds. Every time I step out of my apartment building here, I look up to the sky and think of the minuscule expanse of world that I’ve covered in comparison to the breadth of the oceans and the height of the heavens. One can’t comprehend it, and it’s this lack of comprehension that helps me understand that I am very, very small.
So in this way traveling is a now practice of exegesis for me, almost, or a parallel of it. Every time I’m in the metro, standing with a tour group, staring at scary religious imagery in dark cathedrals, eating a croissant and getting crumbs all over my hands, I try to remind myself that my primary goal is to learn from what these are, because I already know who I am. No matter how near or how far I travel, no matter how many or how few things I see–I will never find anything better than what I already possess.
I have Christ; in Him rests my identity. I need no other.