I can be a little compulsive. On paper, I write just above the line so the words hover perfectly—never touching, never slanting; the spacing is regular, the letters consistent. When I highlight, I always keep a tissue nearby to dab the excess ink that forms in a small (large) puddle at the end of the line. I’m anal and deliberate—or a bit detail-oriented, to put a positive spin on it. I like knowing where I’m going and how long it will take me to get there. I’m all about the agenda planner.
But I don’t like to present myself this way. When I was fifteen, I wrote a “This I Believe” essay; the opening line read: “I believe in spontaneity.” I went on, ironically rationalizing all the ways in which a carefree attitude had benefited my life, and all the ways in which I hoped spontaneity would unexpectedly shape my future. Reflecting on this essay now, three years later, I can discern the moments when I had exchanged honesty for the person I wanted to be, replaced reality with the life I wished I led.
I haven’t always practiced the spirit I preached. Perhaps my affinity for comfort and order has allowed me to overlook the world of the spontaneous. After all, I live amongst deer and winding roads and gargantuan farm equipment. Adventure can be hard to come by around here, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve craved it. I’ve dreamed of traveling the world, of seeing the mountains and sea of Vancouver, Peru’s Machu Picchu, and India’s Pink City, of experiencing the stunning coast of Mozambique and backpacking through Patagonia. I want to listen to nature’s symphony, taste foods I’ve never heard of, be a part of places and people. Because despite my Type A tendencies, I recognize the value of abandoning the schedule and fully embracing the present, and, deep down, I know that I have serendipity to thank for my most formative experiences. In fact, ever since I was young, I think I’ve been torn between these two sides of myself—the compulsive, controlled, and orderly side, and the side that really just wants to ditch the anxiety and the concern, and embrace the stumble, the intuition, and the spontaneity.
And so next year, instead of going straight from high school to college, from one institution to another, I’m putting a one year hiatus on rigid school schedules. I’m going to Brazil, where, excitedly and with gusto, I will enter a whole world of unknowns. I will be immersed in a foreign culture, language, and life, where stark differences will not allow me to recede into what’s easy and safe, but will challenge me to grow. I want to look fear in the face and come out stronger, tear apart everything I think I know and be slapped by what I don’t. I will learn so much about myself from learning about others, and so much about others from understanding myself.
I didn’t make this decision on a whim, as readers of my “This I believe” essay may have been led to believe. It was deliberate and thought out and completely planned. But it was a plan to forget the plan for a minute, to do something meaningful, something good for the world. And beneath the deliberation, I did have an instinct about Global Citizen Year. Hopefully my adventures will lead me to unexpected places. Hopefully I’ll learn and discover and begin to understand a piece of this world more thoroughly than I had before. And maybe then I will begin to find my own purpose in the spontaneous.