Recently a very tiny, random moment from high school has been on my mind. Let me explain.
It was my sophomore year at Fort Walton Beach High School. I wasn’t a freshman anymore, so I was no longer new to this. But I was most definitely still searching for my place. I was the only girl surfer at my school, and as the year grew on I started to realise I didn’t recognise myself in anyone around me. I ate lunch with the surfer boys, zoning out as they chatted about chicks and beer, letting my mind wander and dream of bigger adventures. But I soon realised the next horizon of adventures that I dreamt about weren’t like anyone else’s around me.
I went into the front office at school one day (most likely because I was in trouble for skipping class to go surf) and I was captured by this wall. On it, someone had decorated it with the names of past graduates from the classes before me, and where they’d gone off to college. Florida State University spelled out in bold with a list of names underneath. Same for all the other schools- Auburn University, University of Florida, University of North Florida.. you get the picture. All these names, posted up, being celebrated. I stared blankly, and I was sad. I didn’t recognise myself there, either. I knew that I’d never end up on that wall.
I felt disconnected from those around me and at the time, that had me feeling discouraged. But not long after that moment, I started traveling. I took my 11th grade courses remotely, and spent that year driving across the United States with my aunt. I surfed coastlines I had never been to all by myself. I remember discovering I felt content with my own company as long as the ocean was near. That summer, at 17, I traveled to Indonesia for the first time. And the day after graduating high school (barely) I boarded a plane while all my friends nursed post grad party hangovers. I moved to Hawaii, then Indonesia, and have called Australia home for the past three and a bit years. 10 years an expat, I’ve seen some unforgettable things. And my path, no less or no greater than my fellow graduates of class of 2008, has been all my own.
Someone asked me today what I plan to do when I get back to the states. I unenthusiastically rattled of a list of options. My friend then said something along the lines of, “I just don’t know if that impermanent lifestyle is meant for me anymore. It’s not real life.” I replied with the only thing I’ve ever known, “well I don’t know if I was ever meant for real life anyway.”
Some people might think I’m running from something. But isn’t it possible that maybe I was just made for this?
Trust your gut. Be someone you’re proud of, even when it’s scary, unknown, or hasn’t been done before. I can say today that on all the roads life has taken me, as zig zaggy as they may have been, I do not regret a single one.