This Monday for me was a retroperspective over my life so far and on how life cycles work. If feel that one large life cycle ended for me, and I needed this event I will talk about for a proper closure.
I was in my hometown, walking through the old city streets and admiring the fountains with a tulip shape. This is the reason why I love tulips so much. I grew up with them. My hometown is known for a tulip festival that takes place here each spring. They were all over the city and really common. After I left my hometown, they were rare and expensive, and I couldn’t find them at all street corners. They are still easy to find but I began to appreciate them more now. It is one of those things that you do not value enough when it is everywhere. But you start valuing and love it after it’s not as available as before.
However, tulips and things we love at different times are not the only life cycle that I closed with my visit in my hometown. I was there with a reason. It was the opening ceremony of the National Geography Olympiad. This is the competition that marked my entire adolescence. I traveled across the country for it. And exactly 10 years ago I was one of the four students representing Romania at the International Geography Olympiad. That year, the international competition took place in Japan, and I won a gold medal.
I was invited to give a speech at this year’s competition opening ceremony because the host institution is the high school where I studied. And one of the people involved in the organization is my high-school Geography teacher. As I got to the stage, I realized how much importance I had put as a teenager and later as a young adult on the opinion of those around me and on being perfect. I realized that I always saw myself as inferior to those people only because they were in a position of power, not because their behavior generated respect. And I also realized how the best thing I got from those competitions were life-time friendships with my colleagues from the international phases.
It took me 10 years – 10 years of focusing on geography, trying to be perfect, and looking with admiration at all those professors. 10 years before realizing this is not the place where I want to be. And that I do not want to be surrounded with those people. It is a community based on some values I do not align with. A community where if you do a wrong move, no matter how big or small, you are marginalized forever. A community that from my point of view is closed-minded and old-fashioned (and not in a good way).
After being on the stage and giving a short speech about the value of the experience over the result at this competition, and about how in 10 years I remember the people and the friendships, not the subjects I had to solve; I left my hometown. I couldn’t find my place there anymore. It is not my home anymore. Neither my hometown, nor geography. They were a very important part of my life. And I outgrew them both.
And I don’t feel sad about this. I value every single moment I spend working on my career as a teacher, all the travels around the country exploring geographical aspects, all the beautiful memories and people met at this competition that made me the person I am today. However, I don’t feel I belong in this community anymore. I still love it, but I see now how it fails to meet my values. And for my overall wellness I need to be home, which is where I can be myself.
It was quite a personal wellness journal entry this time, with no evident lesson to extract. If I could generalize it, it will probably sound as something like this:
Stop. Look inside your soul. See if the place you are and the people that surround you align with your personality, values, and life principles. If not, it is never too late to leave. You will realize just as soon as you detach from this environment how much energy and power it takes from you to survive in an environment where thriving is impossible. Be yourself and don’t just wait for the wrong environment to adapt to you or to accept you. This will never happen.