Pitch. Your. Tent.
Ever since I was a teen, I was always into setting goals. It became a cycle of wishing for something, getting it, and then focusing my eyes on the next goal. When I was in high school, I couldn't wait for college. When I lived in DC for graduate school, it was about getting a job. In jobs, the underlying culture of what's next in your trajectory became an opportunity to daydream about my 3-5 year plan.
Currently, In Shanghai, it is time to help my 14 students who will graduate in June write their college essay. The essay should have a core message about a trend in their life. Naturally, as I help them gather their life to write on a piece of paper, I am reflecting on my own life.
I never recognized this trend in my life until college... or maybe graduate school. It's a bit blurry, but that is exactly what happens when you aren't present. All I knew was I was reaching for that “American Dream.” Be educated. Get a job. Settle down. Set up your life for retirement. I was on that path, but my life experiences taught me that what has the illusion of permanency can always change. One of my good friends in college had a conversation with me at some point during my studies. I remember her sweet voice saying, “Tiffy, when you go, pitch your tent.” I do not know why she said it, but it was most likely in the midst of me talking about an awesome opportunity I was just given, but already breezing past mentally in order to look at my next check box on my list of goals. In full transparency, I think I missed so many awesome moments by not being present. I missed moments with people. With cultures as I traveled. And in all the places inbetween before she pumped the brakes on my philosophy of life.
See, the irony of it is this: you hope, pray, and dream of this next step or new thing, but when you get it, you don't appreciate it and you are not grateful for any of it because you aren't present. Physically yes. But, mentally, you have moved on.
Those 3 words: PITCH. YOUR. TENT. are a mantra I consciously took with me when I made the decision to move from DC back to CT. Those words whispered in my ear and I remember saying, for 6 months, I wont visit DC. I’m going to find the beauty of CT and make solid adult friendships. 8.5 years later, those 3 words are whispering again. As a traveling boarding school counselor, I am forcing myself not to think about the next country and the endless possibilities there. I choose to walk around without headphones blaring music or an audiobook so that I can take in the language. Be aware of the nature that surrounds me. Engage in the community (even if it is just smiles and gestures due to the language barrier) and take in all the city has to offer: the foods, the customs, the clothing. I may never get this moment again, and I shouldn't have to. I should take it all in now...that is all I can control.
You see, just like a tent can be pitched and then removed when it is time to go, roots have the ability to be pulled up and replanted as well. You don't have to be afraid of getting and staying rooted with the fear that it is forever (especially if you hate commitments or fear complacency). Whether you are in something that is short-term or long-term, just be all in. Roots not properly planted cannot grow. When planted, they can just BE. And so can you. And me.