“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” -Einstein
In July, I stood on the shore of Portland, Maine, looking out at the Atlantic ocean and feeling pleased with myself. I had made it! Over the last few months, I had driven all the way from California to Maine. Partly, my journey had been fueled by the desire to know what it was like to stand on this shore. Not necessarily Maine, but certainly the shore of “elsewhere” and “far away”, with the terrain of the country explored, seen and experienced.
In front of me, the scene was seashore idyllic perfection; blues of water and sky; dots of fluffy white clouds, white sailboats and seagulls. Behind me, was the whole country. Every state I’d driven through. Some days had just been filled with exhausting miles I’d driven while my knee hurt from pressing on the gas pedal for hours; days I was sweaty and bleary-eyed, kicking empty wrappers from gas station food and giant gallon bottles of water on the floor of my car.
Behind me also were the vignettes I lived. Each place I stopped and lived at for a bit became it’s own small life, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Never to be recreated, like a string of tiny lifetimes trailing behind me. The little life I had led in Utah, where I lived and volunteered at a Hare Krishna temple. The long days of straight driving and sleeping in motels through the Midwest. A peaceful and rural retreat center in Illinois. Each was unique, a chunk of my life lived in a particular way in that moment. Completely new surroundings, weather, food, schedule and people each time I moved on meant I didn’t often get bored, but I did sometimes feel disconnected and disjointed, as if I was living many separate existences.
When I was in elementary school, I would sit next to the window as the school bus wound it’s way through all the neighborhoods towards my stop. I had favorite houses that I couldn’t wait to see as we passed by. The lives that were lived inside those houses seemed unimaginable, and endless and rich with stories. I felt curious and awed by all the stories that existed behind the walls, and inside those buildings. On family road trips through small towns, I was fascinated by the thought; “what would it feel like to live here? To live in a tiny little town?” While in the backseat of the car, I turned this thought over in my head. Trying to imagine it felt vast and impossible.
Through my travels I know now what it is like to live in a rural area, to live in Southern California, or Arizona. I have lived in New England and have fallen in love with the beauty of Utah. Why? Because I had a desire to know what it was like. I feel fuller with the knowledge.
Is curiosity enough? It fuels a life. But if you are not careful, it does not build a life. It spreads you out thinly. I have a network of people around the country and the world. But they are not my intimate community – it is a spread out tribe.
Yet sometimes that’s all we can do. When we feel stuck, or lost or confused. Just follow that curiosity. Pick that small thread out from the the tangle in front of you, find the thing you are curious about, or the thing that makes you happy, and follow it.