Sometimes it doesn’t matter how unique a situation, how beautiful a sight, or how interesting a conversation is. I am somewhere I worked hard to be, but the satisfaction can still be fragile. A thought of sunset on a Brooklyn rooftop might slip into my head, for example, and spoil a moment. Concerts, touch football games, weddings, the company of great friends… thoughts of all these things conspire against me. When I manage to put them out of mind, social media returns them mercilessly to the fore. It becomes a struggle to remain in the moment when, really, I should be relishing it.
I think that the other WDI Summer Fellows would agree that sometimes personal growth can only be found along with some degree of isolation from the world you know. It is when you are pushed outside of your comfort zone that you learn not only about your surroundings but also about yourself. Though I would love to be spending this summer with friends in a familiar place, I’ve come to strongly believe that it is diversity of experience that makes someone a dynamic person. That is why I chose to spend over a month in Amman, Jordan and then nearly four here in Hanoi with just over a week at home in between. The University of Michigan gave me opportunities to do unique work in unique places, and I gobbled them up happily.
The unlikeliest of moments, I’ve found, return me to a certain state of clarity and calm that puts me at ease with where I am and what I am doing. This happened the other night as I rode home from playing volleyball with a mix of locals and expatriates on the other side of town. We had played late into the evening, under lights, and only stopped when a crack of thunder signaled that one of Hanoi’s sudden downpours loomed overhead. The streets and alleys were unusually placid as vendors had closed for the day and those still outside prepared for the storm. As the winds began to gather strength around me, audible in the trees despite the oil-hungry groan of my old motorbike, I felt deeply content. I smiled with the sudden certainty that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, FOMO be damned!