The Question… Why?
One of the most important questions that one can ask themselves is “why?”. Unfortunately most of the current models for education do not teach us how to effectively do this, nor do they explain the importance. There’s a quote from a philosopher named Howard Thurman that I believe draws on this importance of self-discovery; “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. The best place to come alive? Away from home… dare I say, “Gap Year”?
Is This Common Sense?
Every human born on this planet is given an ultimate quest from birth, to find out who they are and what their purpose is. As we go through life we have a series of experiences that help to shape not only how the world views us, but also how we view the world. Some of these formative experiences go unnoticed (i.e the baby boy that is born into a room full of blue balloons) and become deeply rooted within the subconscious, so much so that it seems completely natural for the color blue to be associated with masculinity. There are infinite amounts of these types of events that happen in life and go on without ever being given a second thought. We are born into this world wild and free but only get to experience that feeling as very young children until parents and society wrap their fingers around us and begin the process of domestication. We are asked when we are young, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. What an incredible question to ask of a child! There is so much life left to live before the reality of work or career comes into play and yet society attempts to demand answers from people who don’t even know who they truly are. The question “why?” that seems to be on the forefront of every child’s mind is too quickly answered by external forces (parents, teachers, media, peers) and so begins the process of domestication; It is this way because that’s how the world works. The common sense that we all have as children to ask the question “why” transforms into insecurity and slowly diminishes our ability to understand the world around us through our own lens of perception. This is why it is incredibly imperative that every person challenge their existing beliefs, their established “truths”, and their norms.
How do we do it?
There are a plethora of methods for exploring the self and each individual person will respond differently to each method. This is not a complete list by any means, nor does it contain any surefire ways of achieving self-discovery. It is however a list that contains methods of self-exploration through creativity, the utilization of imagination and asking of “why”.
- Writing (poetry, personal narratives, journaling, event recall)
- Dance (alone, in groups, freeform, choreographed)
- Drawing/Painting (canvas pieces, doodles, spray paint, collages, photography, etc.)
- Meditation (hypnosis, psychoanalytical lucid dreaming, shamanic clearings, breathing)
- Music (listening to it, creating it, exchanging it, sharing it)
- Nature (hikes, camping, walks, literally anything outside)
- Talking (exploring new perspectives, asking yourself aloud “why do I think this?”, sharing opinions, and a big part of this topic is listening as well)
These are just a few ways for you to access the inquisitive part of the mind. Each person will vibe differently with these methods and some may already have a comfortable grasp on any of them. I challenge you to try and apply one of these tools to your search for self. If you already dance as a means of expression then maybe you can try drawing one day instead! Or combine them together and come up with an entirely new method of self-expression! The most important thing to gain from this post is that no matter what it is that you like to do, do it with intention. More specifically, with the intention of figuring out who you really are. As Thurman stated, this world needs people who have come alive.
How Does This Relate to a Gap Year?
As a veteran of gap year travel I am very confident in saying that the best self-exploration I have done has come from my times abroad. When thrust into a new world we are given the wonderful opportunity to be wild again. The societal pressures that I felt weighing me down from home were lifted off of my consciousness and I found myself in a position that allowed for an almost complete rebirth, a clean slate. In a sense, I traveled back in time to when I was younger and was able to see the world with a renewed sense of utter curiosity. The difference being that this time I was the one who got to answer all of my “whys”. I have never felt so close to my true self as I did abroad.
I wish you all the best of travels and cannot wait to live in a world full of people who are actually alive, people who truly know who they are.