I was browsing through one of my favorite stores, Pier 1, when I saw a small wall art that some customer had picked up and left abandoned on the wrong side of the store. It was a small 12″ x 12″ phrase on a greyish turquoise background:
It’s funny how when I was younger, I saw this as a sad saying. Back then, all I thought about was having to leave behind so many wonderful places and people. I regretted having invested so much time into people and places that disappeared from my life. I saw it as wasted efforts on fruitless pursuits that didn’t achieve a goal that I could point to.
The baby boomer generation had drilled into my head that “those who die with the most toys win,” yuppie prairie palaces that were the biggest in the neighborhood with the right address were of paramount importance, and titles with capital letters before and after your name were signals that you had reached worthwhile goals. But I was never interested in those things, and my life didn’t measure up to those goals. I didn’t have a prairie palace, just an apartment decorated the way I wanted. Although I didn’t have a title before my name, although I did manage to acquire some capital letters after it throughout the years because I’m a little nerdy in that area. I definitely could not point to a career, and I have no material toys to leave behind when I die.
Sigh… one would think that I had failed at this game called life.
Life is very much like Runescape in that respect. So many players only look at the combat status and the expensive gear that they can buy. How many times have I heard, “What’s your bank worth?” The same values that rule the material world also rule the virtual game world, because after all, there are humans that populate both and they are going to take their values with them. Virtual life really does reflect the material world.
The way I play Runescape totally reflects how I play the game of life. Curiosity leads me into uncharted landscapes and I meet people I would have missed if I had played it safe. I’m an opportunist by nature. “Hey, I’m going to the Dark Altar to level prayer, wanna come skill with me?” has the same pull as “Hey, I’m going to Morocco this weekend, you game?” Other players have shown me how to boss fight, how to level a skill more quickly, and a host of other game strategies I might never have learned on my own. People I meet on the street quickly become friends and I get introduced to new ways of thinking, or new environments that I never would have encountered on my own.
I’m a bit superstitious in this respect because I think when we meet people, it’s an opportunity to learn from them. Their suggestions or choices could be the next curve in the road for my life. I think maybe “The Celestine Prophecy” explained it best. I bounce from one interesting experience to the next in a synergistic way due to synchronicity. When I look back on the pattern and opportunities that I had in my life, it really is due to following my heart and totally investing in the experience as I lived it.
For example, college in Missouri, university in Spain, a weekend trip to Algiers and then Morocco, talking to a monk in Thailand, TESOL in Quito, several of my degrees, motorcycle riding, spring vacation trips taken on the spur of the moment to the Yucatan and Madrid, moving to various states, joining Americorps Vista after meeting someone randomly, etc etc etc. So many of my “adventures” can be traced back to meeting someone randomly, chatting with them about nothing, and then learning of a new opportunity that I’d never thought of before but that sounded more interesting than the direction I was headed at the time. Creating a flowchart of my life is like following a ping pong ball as it bounces randomly from one conversation to the next with unconnected people.
Now that I’m a bit older, having left my heart in so many places is not such a bad thing. I have a gazillion memories of cool things that I have done and wonderful people that I have met all over the world. Memories randomly surface throughout my day and bring a smile to my face. Were there bad memories? Of course! But there are also memories that broaden my inner space, and make me more empathetic to other people, cultures, and events. I can relate to so many different types of experiences due to having followed the opportunities presented by random people that crossed my path. Would I do it again? When I talk to people that are still living the same life after 20 years of wishing for something different, but who have more “toys” than I do, I can say “YES!!” which all my heart.
My heart is fuller, not smaller, simply because I DID risk leaving it in so many places. I am richer through the experiences I shared with others. I believe that the heart grows in its capacity to love and befriend other people the more that you use it. It’s a muscle and I firmly believe that it has cellular memory (read “The Heart’s Code” by Paul Pearsall). As the memories surface and I smile at all the inane, pathetic, adventuresome, and cool stuff I did over the years, I am so glad that I was opportunistic and allowed my heart to follow the curving road. The memories, both good and bad, are totally worth it.