When I first arrived in Germany, I thought maybe this semester abroad would produce at its end a complete and perfect version of me. I would have gone on the best adventures, felt the deepest lows and highest highs, and discovered my life’s purpose. I expected this transcendent, life-changing experience. I would shed inhibitions, the expectations of others and myself, and finally learn to simply live. I thought at the end of this trip, there would be some form of enlightenment, an answer, a prize at least.
But now I’ll be headed in home in two weeks, and I am scrambling still to discover something new. I feel like I have forgotten the purpose of the pilgrimage in the first place. But that’s not true. I’m still wandering, still lost, still on my way to some place I’m not sure exists.
I thought I would discover what it meant to be a good person. I really wanted that. Instead, I have been miserable and moping. On days I can wander into the woods and escape the racket of the city, I experience calm. But there is no constant calm. Rather, peace is something one must engage in constant war in order to find.
There is not some magical end goal—no secret key to a locked room of experience, no scepter of power that will vanquish sadness, no glass heart brimming with the wine of self-love. Being human is not a video game. Becoming the person you’re supposed to be is not a linear process, but more like those mazes we solved as children on the kids’ place mats at fancy restaurants. Sometimes, we wander down the wrong corridors and must return to the start. Sometimes we believe that we are making progress, when we are only becoming more lost. I would like to become more comfortable when lost, to feel at ease not knowing where I might be headed or whether the place I’m going is another dead-end. I want to come to terms with the fact that I will never be finished, never complete, never perfect, never anything than a continuous construction site. A video game without levels or controllers or rules.
Maybe we just keep growing and learning until we trip into a grave. Maybe there is no plateau. Maybe there’s no peak. Maybe that’s okay.