Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Hello! It has been quite a while since my last post. I'm writing now from the comforts (oh so comfortable!) of my living room back in California, after wandering in India for 2.5 months. As my journey started taking on an intensely personal nature, I ended up naturally stopping most of my journaling and blogging. I just checked and noticed it's been about two months since my last post. How time flies.

So now I'm back, with new eyes. So much has changed while I was gone, both within (me) and without (family, friends, environment...). There's a giant new Safeway right near my house now. I think it's trying to emulate Whole Foods. Even my favorite used bookstore in downtown Mountain View has a new trade-in system. Golly! I came in with four boxes of books, thought I was an old hand at this business, and was faced with an entirely new checkout system.

It was hard to write this post, even. I've had it partially-completed for days now, refusing to commit(!), to clicking that "publish post" button. To announce that I'm back, with nothing "tangible" to show for it. I'd rather keep the doubts and thoughts to myself for now, thank you very much. Having been resume-driven for the past few years, it is hard to admit that I spent months doing something not resume-friendly at all - perhaps, gasp, detrimental to that life-defining record!!! Yet the noncognitive skills I gained and appreciated while I was on the road are certainly not things I could have picked up had I remained in school. I feel like I have gained much wealth, though it is perhaps not readily measured and visible. It's not like a high score on the MCAT or a fat bonus from work - nothing that can be measured, nothing that affords bragging rights. I came home with half-a-dozen books on my back (always reading, that never changes), a few faded Alibaba harem pants, and a few Ganesh/Om t-shirts, with the Ganesh and Om basically washed off. A paltry haul, one might say.

But as I washed the dishes today and ruminated, my favorite dish-washing side activity, a phrase suddenly popped in my mind. "Those who matter don't care; those who care don't matter." I feel like I'm in busyness withdrawal right now. I'm so used to identifying myself with what I do that being "idle" for a few hours, let alone a few days, is practically unbearable. Never mind that I have a 17-hour time difference, and thus ridiculous jetlag, to get over. It is hard to cut myself some slack - that is not something I ever do! Or did. And perhaps that has been my biggest mistake during the overachieving years of my life.

I was listening to some podcasts from my alma mater today, free classroom lectures that are available for lifelong learners all over the world. One story of the Buddha's that has been found throughout the ages, all over the world: if you play a stringed instrument, one must neither have the strings too loose or too tight - otherwise you can't play, or you'd sound God-awful! This story is, again, found all over the world, with the one difference in what instrument is used in the story. In India, one speaks of the sitar, while in Western civilization, perhaps the violin or guitar. In China, the erhu. The widespread existence of this story points to the way human life is best lived - neither with too much "slack" or too uptightly. To live in the balance point between these two extremes is to master the true art of living. Easier said than done.