GROWTH

Brandon Richards - India


January 18, 2019

I’m in an Uber with Jack and Luciana on my way home from our second
regional reconnect when Luciana says “Do you think this is the best year of
your life?” We had just come back from exploring Old City on a heritage
walk, walking through Charminar, having several men come up to us and try
to sell us bangles or bags or really unusual toys. I’ve lived here since
September and I’m still continuously in awe by how much there is to see.
How different Gachibowli is from Old City, how different Banjara Hills is
from Secunderabad. Even though Hyderabad is a huge city, home to 6 million
people, an hour and a half auto ride never feels too long. I never feel far
away from anything, it feels like a bubble. I’m not using the word bubble
to mean that I feel sheltered or disconnected. Hyderabad is a bubble that
holds so much diversity, truth, and excitement, it’s its own little world.

My favorite thing to do is to ride home in an auto rickshaw. Back home I
find an immense amount of peace in my daily routine of riding the subway in
New York. I can sit, and think or listen to music for over an hour and not
worry about any of my obligations. It’s almost like time stops and I have
this wonderful moment to myself. On the subway I’m relaxed, I don’t put
much thought into anything. I just observe where I am and how I feel. I
have found that same kind of peace in an auto rickshaw, especially at
night. There is so much life happening all around non-stop, and coming
from New York I feel calm in the chaos, it feels good.

It’s easy to catch yourself looking back or looking forward, and it’s hard
to truly find yourself living in the present moment. Sometimes I have very
surreal moments where I feel overwhelmed with disbelief that this is my
life. Those older than you, love to tell you how you’re only young once,
and to soak up what you currently have. How do you do that? I have found
that I could only appreciate certain moments in life once they were over,
which is sometimes inevitable but also a shame. These surreal moments of
feeling exist in the now. I’m not concerned with calling this year the
“best year of my life” because I don’t know how to constitute best, and I
don’t think this needs to be a moment isolated from the rest of my life, a
peak moment.

This is the year of the most growth. Growth is when you move forward from
where you currently are. I didn’t come into this experience with an
entirely different mindset or values, still everyday the challenges and new
experiences give you more to consider, more to build on. I play Jenga a
lot with the kids at my Teach for India apprenticeship, and I always find
the act of building up the structure so interesting. One by one you add
three blocks, to three blocks and you align the higher piece with the lower
piece to form this strong supported structure. I feel like that’s what
growth is. The new is layered on top of the old, and each thought and
belief supports the other, growing taller and more sure. The only
difference between Jenga and I, is that I don’t believe this growth is
capable of collapsing. I do believe that although we learn and unlearn
constantly in our lives, growth is always, no matter what, constant. I
think that people take steps forward and backwards everyday without even
necessarily being aware of it. It’s possible to form a new habit, and break
it. This gap year is a formative experience, it’s a foundation. It’s not
something I will go home and forget about. I took a Global Citizen Year to
experience a new kind of excitement through travel, and for a whole year to
live by the idea of developing myself into a global citizen. I crave
excitement and new experiences, and this year is the beginning of a
lifetime of insisting on living outside of my comfort zone. I see no reason
to spend my life searching for the best year ever, but instead to live by
the hope that I can grow year after year, and push myself further. To see
the world more, to understand it, and to especially participate in it.

I cherish my alone time, and the above photo of me in an auto is one of my
most personal and happy moments in Hyderabad.

Brandon Richards