A Cycle of Growth

I was 18 when I first left home. I followed the well worn path of my peers, in search for a life of of my own vision. I had imagined the eventual success that would come knocking down my door within a few years, and I thought I had it all figured out. I moved back home 5 months later.

It was humbling, embarrassing, and terrifying to go out into public and allow the world to see me in my state of failure. At 18, I assumed that this was my life now. That I was that guy who dropped out of college and moved back home forever. That I missed my one chance. Reflecting now, I only wish I would have read more, or at least looked around at those sharing the same space as me on sidewalks and in coffeeshops.

This is a story as old as time. So much so, that it is pinned as the “Hero’s Journey” in literature, and recurs in every aspect of life. In Siddhartha, the main character, named Siddhartha, leaves home as a young adult in search for his true self. After spending his life in this search, he finds himself in the one place that he never imagined, within.

In The Alchemist, Santiago is a shepherd who has dreams of a great treasure in Egypt. After selling his sheep, loading onto a desert caravan, and getting attacked by raiders, Santiago returns home to find out his treasure was right there, underneath him the whole time! (Literally, he slept above the buried treasure).

We leave our homes in search for ideal lives, to hunt down dreams, and to live within our goals. Any human who aspires has found themselves away from their comfort zone, slightly scared, in over their head. The fact I wish I could tell 18 year old me, is that, this is natural. This is the cycle of growth. We must leave in order to learn, in order to change as human beings. Then, when we return, we are different, we are better, and we can be appreciative of what we have. That is, until it is time to leave again.

Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon spells out his process for writing scripts like this:

“You have a character that you can identify with, that has some kind of need, wish, or incompletion. This causes them to go across a threshold. They go down a road of trials, searching for something. They find it, whether they like it or not. It kind of kicks their ass, and they come back to the world they started in having changed. You Need to Go Search for something, Find it, Take it, and then Return, Changed.”

It is bitterly ironic, that we must leave behind what we will one day wish to come back to, that we must go search for something that will ultimately lead us back home. It is, but this is how it must be. We, ultimately, search for what we already have, but the searching leads us to find it, in ways we never initially thought of.

When I first left, I was searching for somewhere, or something that would allow me to channel all the anger towards the world into something productive. I learned that I was way off on my initial estimates, and only in returning home did I realize that what I need (to become a better person internally), was there all along. After feeling as though I have maxed out all of the possibilities of my home town, I left again. This time, I was searching for purpose, searching for a way to express this person that I have since created. After traveling the country, assisting in disasters, and living in the most rural parts of the US, I have learned that I don’t need fancy stages and long speeches to do so. I can express myself right where I am from. I was searching for a world that accepted me, and while searching I realized that I had that right at home all alone.

I’ll come home again, changed, and appreciate what I have missed for the past three years. After a while though, I’ll probably have to leave again, to change more. It is a humbling reality to come to terms with the notion that you do not know much. Everything I was searching for, I found in a way that I never imagined. This is true for all of us who go on this search, this quest for greatness. I imagined that striking it rich with some lucrative speaking deal would allow me to be happy, and I was so wrong. While speaking, I learned that my happiness is with those who care about me, but I would have never realized this if I didn’t leave those people.

We search for fulfillment in big business deals, in work, or in fame, but soon realize that fulfillment comes in many different flavors. We search for wealth in money, but learn that true wealth is in experiences and people. We search for peace in the world, but learn that peace comes from inside.

It would be the greatest shortcut if we could realize all of this right now. It would save so much time, so much pain, so many questions, begging to be answered. If we could turn around and realize that what we are searching for happens to be right under where we lay, or happens to be inside of us, then what would life be? It is in searching for what we don’t have, that we recognize what we do have. It would be great if we could skip a step, but we can’t. The search is necessary to change us into the person who can appreciate what they already had.

It is not the outcome, but the journey. We must follow this cycle in order to grow. It does not always have to be as drastic as leaving home, but we must be willing to leave the life that we have, in order to gain new perspective on it, sometimes multiple times. Almost always, when we are searching for bigger, and better, we realized what we had was just big, and just good enough for us.